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America's Coolest Stores

ACS 2006: Fourth Place, Kimball’s Jewelers



Kimball’s Jewelers

Address: 6464 Kingston Pike, Knoxville, TN 37919
Owners: Danny Overbey (CEO), Kim Overbey (president) and Jim Overbey (chairman)
Phone: (865) 584-0026
Year founded: 1933
Opened featured location: 2005
Store slogan: “On the Top of Bearden Hill”
Consultants: Dan and Lori Askew of The Vantage Group
Total Store Area: 12,289 sq ft
Employees: 17
2004 Revenues: Over $10 million
Land cost: N/A
Building cost: N/A
Interior build-out cost: N/A
Design/architectural firms cost: N/A
Current estimated property value: N/A

Five Cool Things About Kimball’s Jewelers


The Store On the Hill

Sitting on 4.5 acres atop Bearden Hill, with sweeping views of the Smokey Mountains and Tennessee River, Kimball’s is a Knoxville landmark.
CEO Danny Overbey says the store’s prominent location and grand Palladian style were no accident, helping capture some of the store’s history and ambition. “We wanted to give something back to the community with a store that would serve as a Knoxville landmark,” he says. “With this design and location, we feel we have accomplished our goals. We have had people in the store who travel the world, and they say they don’t need to go to Atlanta, New York or Vicenza, Italy, to get something special. They can get it right here in Knoxville, and to me that is a wonderful compliment.”



My Dome is My Castle

The jewel in the crown at Kimball’s — or perhaps more accurately — the crown over the jewels — is a huge stained-glass dome in the ceiling that splashes a rainbow of colors down onto the sales floor. The feature is made of more than 2,700 pieces of glass in colors commonly associated with jewelry: emerald greens, ruby reds, sapphire blues and the purples of amethyst. Suspended by aircraft cables, its frame alone weighs more than 600 pounds. The dome was designed by Danny Overbey and his wife, Kim. “It is a jaw dropper. People don’t expect that when they come into the store. Even the traveling salespeople who come by compliment us on it,” says Kimball’s chairman Jim Overbey. “It wasn’t inexpensive, but it is really pretty.”


Diversity Points

Kimball’s prides itself on the diversity of its staff, which runs the gamut in terms of age and ethnicity. “We have people from all over our country, and from other countries. We have a woman from Czechoslovakia, former athletes and people at all levels with all types of experience. There is somebody in every demographic,” says Danny Overbey. This diversity is particularly handy on the sales floor. Danny says turning a sale over to someone a customer can relate to increases their confidence in his store. “People choose to do business with people they like and believe in, and we think the people that are here are very important,” he says.



‘No Buts’ About it

Every retail jeweler who has been in business for a while has a “whopper-of-a-sale” story to tell. Jim Overbey’s involves a ring featuring a 4.5-carat, D-color, internally flawless round boulder. “A gentleman came into the store to buy a beautiful stone for his wife,” Overbey recalls. “She had said, ‘I don’t want any buts in the diamond. I don’t want to say to people, this is almost perfect, but’. And she didn’t have any buts in her stuff. She was absolutely thrilled.”
The Overbeys were pretty excited as well. The whole family celebrated the sale with a trip to the beach in Puerto Rico that year. And to top it off, Jim later sold the same guy a matching pair of earrings.


Happy Bunch

As imposing as Kimball’s can look from the outside, the Overbeys are not averse to a little mischievous fun. When one of the store’s top salespeople turned 60, Kimball’s hired a stripper to come to the store posing as a customer. When she dropped her clothes in front of the sales associate, “he turned white all over, and then red all over,” recalls Jim Overbey, adding that the woman was wearing a swimming suit underneath and that the customers  in the store that day had been tipped off. Overbey also enjoys telling the story of a “snooty” French woman who refused to pay the extra $10 on a repair job that he had underquoted. “She said to me, ‘In France, when you quote a price, that is what the customer pays’,” Overbey says, mimicking the woman’s accent. So he charged her the price of his original quote. “But after that, each job I did for her I added $2 to the total until I got my 10 bucks back,” he confesses. — Fred Michmershuizen



[contentheading]Danny Overbey, CEO Kimball’s Jewelers[/contentheading]

1 How did you come up with the concept for the store?

We began working with an architect, who drew something that we absolutely did not like. So my wife and I went to a local bookstore, and we looked up Palladian architecture. I took four books home and read them, then drew up the plan for the store in one night.

2 In bringing the store to fruition, who helped the most along the way?

Dan and Lori Askew of The Vantage Group were by far the most helpful. While we came up with the overall concept for the store, the Askews helped us bring it to fruition. They also helped us work out many of the details. The jewelers’ work area behind the glass partitions, for example, was their idea.

3 What is it like to own a cool store?

It makes coming to work a pleasure. I am as comfortable at work as I am at home, as are my employees. You have to enjoy the journey. Being in a cool environment makes work a pleasure.

4 What would you tell other store owners who want to be as cool as you?

Be prepared to dedicate at least three years to the project. It doesn’t come easy, and it doesn’t come quick. To change the entire makeup and thought process of an organization is a major undertaking. It requires a large level of commitment.

5 What is the best moment you have ever had in your store?

The kiss I got from my wife when we finished the store.


Things Kimball’s customers say, according to Danny Overbey:

1. “That sure is purty.” (Customers, commenting on the stained-glass dome — “purty” being how they pronounce “pretty” in Tennessee).
2. “Hi Jim,” “Hi Danny” or “Hi Kim” (Because customers who shop at Kimball’s know the owners on a first-name basis and have personal relationships with them.)
3. “You sure went from a tepee to Trump Tower in a hurry!” (Customer commenting on the new store, compared to the old location.)


Terry Sisco

The Overbeys have created a masterpiece that carries all of the elements of southern tradition throughout the store. It’s almost as if the store was built first and Knoxville patterned itself around the store.

This store conveys so much southern hospitality and charm that George Washington might have been attracted to sleep here when visiting his war secretary, Henry Knox.

The center rotunda has my vote as the coolest feature of this store. Rotundas are traditionally the physical and symbolic hearts of mighty places like churches and capital buildings.

The bridal counter, while pretty, does not appear to convey a sense of love and romance. The chairs are made of wrought iron that may be functional in raising the guest to the height of the showcase, but they look uncomfortable and difficult to maneuver for the couple to gain a feeling of closeness as they select their forever symbol of love.

I am not a fan of using photos of jewelry on the walls. I strongly encourage well-intended use of lifestyles photos of love and romance. After all, the guest is not purchasing a piece of jewelry, they are selecting an outward and visible sign of an inward and eternal love.

Bruce Brigham
Retail Clarity

For me, this store gets onto the “America’s Coolest Stores” list almost solely for its exterior architecture. What a grand building! What a port-cochere to drive into, and be let out under … to go shopping for some jewelry!

(Inside), this store is too much about itself, and not enough about the jewelry.

Gary and Kathy Bigham
Bigham Jewelers

The Southern, Old World charm of the exterior is elegant and inviting. One of the coolest features is the portico, which not only adds to the architectural design, but is highly practical in inclement weather. The Palladian windows are a source of natural light and provide the welcome of an old plantation home.

The walnut cases and faux-finished walls are truly beautiful and stylish, but the interior décor feels disconnected by the choice of varied floor treatments and the stark contrast of the white columns. The boutique design is appealing, but the decorative accents feel a bit busy and cluttered.

Rick Segel

The building is breathtaking, especially at night.

The store’s design elements and market are in perfect harmony. It says elegant both outside and inside.

Les Hiscoe
Shawmut Design

The store feels very “stately”  and appropriate for Knoxville.

The acoustic ceiling tile is too flat. I would suggest adding some soffitting.

Kate Peterson
Performance Concepts

They clearly built a store that’s “at home” in the antebellum South.

I like the glass dome. It adds color and something unique to an otherwise quiet look.

The interior and showcase design look too ordinary for the grand nature of the exterior.

Celeste Sotola
Interior Designer

The overall feeling of a gracious kindness is apparent right down to the lamp shades. So many people feel wood brings warmth to a space, but the shape of the wood is equally important. The columns are generous and stately.

The lamp shades and the flowers tell more about how I will be treated and how the owner feels about jewelry. The subliminal reasons for utilizing ambient lighting in acknowledging the middle air space in a room creates a fullness that feels comforting, and that is where the people are.

I would choose more stately, comfortable chairs for the bridal counter.

Lori Wegman
Wegman Design Group

Traditional Old World  charm, very much like an old grand estate home.

Kimball’s looks like a truly established company with history and tradition but not too stuffy.

Ellen Fruchtman
Fruchtman Marketing

Personally, I’m drawn to a more contemporary look, however, this store was more of a reflection of their customers (versus that of the owners) and to that end, it’s actually one of my favorites.


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This story is from the August 2006 edition of INSTORE



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