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Back to Underwoods: Cool Store Revisited

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In 2006 , I had the good fortune to travel to Fayetteville, Arkansas to cover INSTORE’s America’s Coolest Store for that year, Underwood’s Jewelers, owned by father-son team Bill and Craig Underwood. It was a thrill to see the architectural genius of the Fay Jones-designed building and store in person, but the store was cool for so many other reasons as well. Probably the coolest aspect of all is the people – everyone at Underwood’s (especially the Underwoods themselves) are friendly, nice, and incredibly enthusiastic about the jewelry business.

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I returned to Fayetteville to watch our beloved Texas A&M Aggies play the Arkansas Razorbacks in football, and we were lucky enough to be able to spend some time catching up with the Underwoods. Bill gave me a demonstration of his patented new invention that could revolutionize the way diamonds are sold (more on that next week!), and Craig caught me up on what’s new in the store.

“We’ve continued to focus on custom design, which has always been a huge area for us,” he told me. “We’ve expanded our shop and hired another jeweler. It’s interesting – more of our custom designs in the past were a very tailored style. But recently, we’re seeing more of the hand-forged look, which is much more rough. We’re also seeing a move back toward yellow gold, particularly in fashion jewelry, which is nice.”

Craig said that the “raw jewelry” look (popularized by Todd Reed) has been requested more and more often by customers. Interestingly, he said the store started designing “rough” jewelry nearly 40 years ago.

“Back then, we did the nugget style that was so popular in the ‘70s – raw, uncut diamonds. Now we’re using opaque diamonds that are slightly faceted with the checkerboard pattern. We did a bracelet last year that we sent to AGTA and later to the Emmy Awards; it was chosen to be worn on the red carpet by Shaun Robinson, a reporter for Access Hollywood. So it’s a style that’s popular not only here in Arkansas but also on the West Coast as well.”

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I also learned some pointers from Craig on jewelry photography, as he photographs the store’s jewelry himself. He also produces the store’s annual video catalog – a 30-minute exposition of all of the store’s offerings that takes an enormous amount of time to put together. But he seems to love every minute of it. I also got Craig to tell me a story about a cool customer who came in recently to design a piece of jewelry for his wife – see the video on this page. I caught Craig on a “casual Friday,” and he was a bit uncomfortable to be filmed without a suit and tie, but I hope you’ll enjoy the story anyway!


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