AFTER 40 YEARS in the jewelry business, Scott Ellison has closed the Evansville, IN, store he occupied since 1994 and returned to the work he likes best — selling jewelry.
“It was to get out from under all the back office stuff, paperwork and ordering and dealing with suppliers,” Ellison said of his decision to merge Ellison Collection Fine Jewelers with one of his Evansville competitors, Brinkers Jewelers.
Ellison Fine Jewelers is among 86 stores reported closed by acquisition or discontinuance in August, according to preliminary numbers from the Jewelers Board of Trade. In final numbers from August 2017, 51 stores closed during that comparable period.
Over the past three years, the JBT research department has identified a slow but steady increase in monthly store closings, largely attributable to the increasing number of Baby Boom store owners choosing to retire, notes JBT president Rich Weisenfeld.
Ellison, who at 55 is at the young end of the Baby Boom spectrum (births between 1946 and 1964), started in the business at 15 as a ”fluke,” taking a job doing “everything from scrubbing toilets to polishing diamonds” solely because it fit with his school schedule. But he gradually discovered that he liked the business — and that “I was good at it.” He went on to study at the Gemological Institute of America, becoming a Certified Gemologist.
Consistently the top-performing salesperson at the shop where he then worked, Ellison eventually decided to go out on his own.
“I wanted to create my own standards for taking care of customers,” he explained in an interview with Brinkers that appears on the store’s website, “so I made the frightening (and exciting) career decision to quit the only life I had ever known and started Ellison Fine Jewelry.”
As the industry matured, he faced new challenges. At the time of its closing, his store had lost about 20 percent of its sales to the web.
Although he now works a 45-50 hour week as opposed to the 70 hours he typically put in as a store owner, his passion for the business is undiminished.
“My favorite thing about the jewelry industry is that there is never a dull moment and the industry is constantly changing. To be an expert you have to continually educate yourself on the new technologies, how things are manufactured, advancements in diamonds, colored gemstones, and high-end timepieces.”
Back-office or front counter, success in the jewelry business requires the same two things, Ellison says: “Hard work and dedication.” Plus, “Treat everybody the same.”
While he had no misgivings about the merger — “Sometimes, an opportunity comes along and you just have to take it” — some of his longtime customers did.
“When I was in the process of closing my doors, at least 15 of my customers cried,” Ellison says. “Three of them were men – and that was pretty special. They were long-time customers of 20 to 30 years. I was reminded that Ellison’s has been a very special part of so many lives, as it has mine. I’ve sold these families their wedding rings and sold their children their wedding rings, too. To have customers show that kind of emotion validates I did it the right way.”