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Experience a Week in the Life of Arkansas Jeweler Don E. Yarbrough

He felt his life’s calling when he cast his first silver ring in a silversmithing class in high school.




Don E. Yarbrough

DON E. YARBROUGH and his wife, Rebecca, bought Markey’s Jewelers in Harrison, AR, in 1997, changing its name to DEY GEM Jewelry.

“In this town Yarbrough is a common name and there was already a Yarbrough’s auto sales,” he says of the choice to use his initials. “And six letters are cheaper on a sign than nine.”

Yarbrough grew up in Kansas, the son of an oil-field welder. He felt his calling when he cast his first silver ring in a silversmithing class in high school. He put himself through what is now called Texas Institute and later took diamond and diamond-grading courses at the GIA.

The 3,500-square-foot strip-center business, generates annual revenues between $500,000 and $750,000. He employs one part-time and two full-time workers.

Harrison, 30 miles from Branson, MO, has a population of about 13,500, and DEY GEM is known in the area for its service and brands. “Our motto is, ‘We don’t try to sell you something. We try to help you purchase it’,” Yarbrough says.

Thursday, Jan. 3

7:30-8:30 A.M. My day starts with looking over e-mails. The staff will be in to open, and I have to review how to do inventory (I forget year to year). Thank goodness we switched over to the Edge POS computer system about three years ago because it makes doing inventory so much easier. I hang the Christmas wreath up in the back room and that’s the last of the Christmas stuff. All put away until next year!

8:30-9:30 A.M. The staff is putting the cases out, and I have to let a customer in to clean her rings. This is a good customer, or we wouldn’t let her in. This customer tells me that she needs to come in because three times a week she takes her son to St. Louis to play hockey. This is a 5-1/2 hour drive. I think I would tell the son he would have to find another sport!

9:30-10:30 A.M. New York calls to have me take a survey. They tell you it will only take five minutes, and 20 minutes later, I help get the employees started on inventory. A salesman for the newspaper comes in to talk about buying ads. A customer looks at a semi-mounting.

10:30-11:30 A.M. I get to work on catching up with repairs — after-holiday sizing and work we promised would be done by mid-January.

11:45 A.M.-1 P.M. Lunch at Rotary.

1-2:30 P.M. I work in the front with customers who have lots of questions ( if only I could charge for my answers).Watch batteries are a headache but it’s money. Phone calls from everyone and their dog.

2:30-3:30 P.M. Watch batteries again: I sit down again to get some repairs done. I have to stop and change watch batteries again and take links out. One customer wants to trade her 1-carat diamond in and, get this, wants to pay only about $500 more and get a 1.25 carat or bigger. I did not laugh, but I did say that if she bought a semi-mounting we could change the head and give her a bigger look with her diamond.

3:30-5:15 P.M. Sit down to do repairs and actually finish some.

5:30 P.M. Close.

6 P.M. One of the things I do after we close is count out the drawer each evening, then go home and do the books and the daily business. First, I come home, eat supper, then go to my home office. My wife does a lot of the accounting, and so most nights we’re sitting and juggling the books, working on ads, and by the time we get through that paperwork alone, it’s 10 or 11, or maybe 9 on a good night. At times it takes a strain on us. My wife works at FedEx Freight and does the store bookwork at night. She also helps out in the store during the holidays or when we are short-handed.

Friday, Jan. 4

7:30-9:30 A.M. E-mails, check on any appointments. Open the doors.

10-11 A.M. Work in the back on repairs

11-11:05 A.M. Eating lunch, and must swallow quickly: Customer needs a watch battery.

11:05 A.M.-1:30 P.M. I’m getting caught up somewhat in the back room but still have 45 jobs to do and each day that goes by 20 more come in.

1:30-5:30 P.M. Customer wants to haggle over a repair price. Of course I do not give in and stand by the Geller Book.

5:30-7 P.M. Work with customers and close.

Saturday, Jan. 5

8-11:30 A.M. Open and work on inventory.

11:30 A.M. Lunch.

11:45 A.M.-12:30 P.M. Nice sale! Customer looking to remount her diamonds in her rings.

12:30-2:30 P.M. Wanting to finish inventory.

2:30-3:30 P.M. I work on some repairs and some quick sale sizing.

4:30 P.M. Call it a day.


Monday, Jan. 7

7:30-8:30 A.M. E-mails, phone calls and faxing jobs I need to do today. Ordering jewelry boxes. Valentine’s will be here soon.

8:30 A.M.-12:30 P.M. Finally finish inventory and accounting for any missing pieces. Most missing items were computer glitches and/or due to shrinkage.

12:30 P.M. Is it lunch time already?

1:30-2:30 P.M. Customer brings larger 10K service ring in and wants a bridal set made. Rather than melting down his gold and taking another three to seven days to complete, I say let’s trade in the gold and set your diamond in a cathedral mounting and buy a diamond wedding band to match. Bam! Another pleased customer and out the door goes a sale.

2:30-3:30 P.M. I finish the cathedral bridal set and quickly call the customer. He says he will be in Friday. Oh, well, I guess at least that job is done.

3:30-4:30 P.M. I now have to stop and reorder. Lorenzo pricing is going up and I want to get that order in this week. Eighty pieces is a good savings and every penny counts these days.

4:30-6 P.M. I still am trying to finish the Lorenzo order but it will have to wait till tomorrow. Close the store and look over watch parts that came in today. Everything looks right. But wait — this is not the right size of roller jewel I wanted. Will order that tomorrow.

Tuesday, Jan. 8

7:30-11 A.M. Watch repairs — working on some old pocket watches, crystal replacement, crowns etc.

11-11:15 A.M. Radio people in again to set schedule for first quarter.

11:15 A.M. Lunch.

11:30 A.M.-12:30 P.M. Customers in today and it’s a very busy day. Everything from remounting work to an exchange because it just didn’t fit her style. I must say there have been very few returns this year. But a lot of silver was sold, and that didn’t break the bank for most.

12:30-6 P.M. Very busy day but not much money in the till. Closing time.

Wednesday, Jan. 9

7:30-10:30 A.M. E-mails and watch band replacements. A customer comes in: “I am sorry. I bought this ring somewhere else at Christmas, but Brand-X wouldn’t size it. How much did you say it was going to cost?” I tell them if they had bought it here not only would we have sized it the same day but we would not even have charged for sizing. Well, they of course leave the ring and are told it will be a week and if I get it done sooner we will call. What are you going to say? I only work on our stuff? I pity the jeweler who says that, because in a small town he won’t last very long.

10:30 A.M.-3:30 P.M. Repairs and more customers

3:30 P.M. Everyone else is back from lunch and, wow, it’s 3:30! Time for me to eat lunch.

3:30-5:30 P.M. Customers, sales. One final look over the Lorenzo order, which is then placed.


Thursday, Jan. 10

7:30-9:30 A.M. I try to sneak out the front door and am stopped by a salesman and someone asking for a donation to an organization.

10 A.M. Successfully leave store to run errands.

10:30-11:45 A.M. Work on anything that I missed while I was gone. Phone calls, chain hook ups, etc.

11:45 A.M.-1 P.M. Food at last. I just joined Rotary and love the idea that I get the chance not only to leave the store but get to eat lunch (I mean really eat). I love being able to get away. Most of the time I’m taking five minutes to scarf down my meal at work, and that’s if I’m not interrupted two or three times. Rotary is a very giving thing. You should try it.

1-3:30 P.M. A customer cannot understand why her silver ring is tarnished. I ask, “How long have you had it?” “Oh, about four years,” she says. I tell her, “Let’s polish it and it will look new again.” Result? Another happy customer.

3:30-6 P.M. Repair work again and I am catching up.



When the Kids Have Their Own Careers, Wilkerson Can Help You to Retire

Alex and Gladys Rysman are the third generation to run Romm Jewelers in Brockton, Mass. And after many decades of service to the industry and their community, it was time to close the store and take advantage of some downtime. With three grown children who each had their own careers outside of the industry, they decided to call Wilkerson. Then, the Rysmans did what every jeweler should do: They called other retailers and asked about their own Wilkerson experience. “They all told us what a great experience it was and that’s what made us go with Wilkerson.” says Gladys Rysman. The results? Alex Rysman says he was impressed. “We exceeded whatever I expected to do by a large margin.”

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