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Jewelry Store Continues Under New Ownership, Mixing Old Ways with Modern Technology

It’s one of 51 stores reported closed or under new ownership in September.

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Pictured here are Mary Loose Deviney, right, with her late mother, Francis Elizabeth Gibson Loose

AMONG THE 51 STORES reported closed or under new ownership in September by the Jewelers Board of Trade, there’s been a changing of the guard at Tuel Jewelers, a mainstay of brick-lined, pedestrians-only Main Street in Charlottesville, VA, since 1945.

History is everything in Charlottesville, founded in 1762. Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe were born here. Jefferson’s Monticello is a few miles outside town. The University of Virginia, which he founded, is based here, on a campus designated as a World Heritage site. Tuel’s — whose most consistent seller over the years is the silver Jefferson cup, designed by the third president — dates its own history to the era when railroad watchmakers and repair shops began to add jewelry items, mostly for men at first, tie-tacks and cufflinks, then engagement rings and wedding jewelry, creating a post-War generation of hometown jewelry stores. 

Local resident Francis Elizabeth Gibson went to work as a bookkeeper for Tuel’s in 1953, gradually earning GIA certification through a correspondence course. In 1975, with the support of husband Hermann Loose, a Swiss-born cattle rancher, she bought the store, thus becoming the first female merchant in town.

Francis Elizabeth Gibson Loose’s last day at work was Dec. 28, 2017. When she died eight days later, at 86, the local movie theater mourned her with a marquee reading “A jewel is lost in downtown.” By the time Francis Loose’s daughter Mary entered the store in the 1960s, at two days old, Tuel’s already was on its way to becoming the community center it remains today.

“After 9-11, this is where people came to just sit in the chairs and talk,” says new owner Mary Loose Deviney. “I mean, it’s a store, a way of deriving income, sure, but Tuel’s is so much more than that. It’s almost a creature, a living thing in this community. I don’t really think of myself as the owner. I’m more like the caretaker.”

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Mary Loose Deviney left home to study accounting at college, then returned to Charlottsville take care of her grandmother, working at the store part-time. She had intended to move away to a position with one of big eight international accounting firms of the 1980s, but then after her grandmother’s death she took her mother aside and said, “I think I’d like to stay on, if you’ll have me.” 

Any regrets to passing on a chance at a larger world than her hometown?

“Oh no, not a one,” Mary Deviney says. “That was one of Momma’s lessons. Try to live without regrets.” 

Mary combines her Old World skills with customers and on the bench with savvy modern business training, sprinkling her conversations with references to “our analytics.”

Although sales are all still rung up on a crank cash register in the front of the store, there’s a modern computer system at work in the back. 

“I have always felt that technology is our friend,” Mary says, citing its influence on the manufacture of today’s lighter, cheaper jewelry. “I think the more people wearing jewelry, the better, you know. They develop the habit.”

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As for technology’s effect on sales, there is almost a shrug in her voice as she says, “An internet site can’t make repairs or size a ring. The colors on the internet are not true to life. Photographs are easily manipulated as to size. At this point, people have had that one or two bad experiences buying online. They know that if they want quality they have to go to an honest-to-goodness jewelry store.

“Our business is about relationships, and relationships are long-term.”

Any changes in store under the new caretaker of Tuel Jewelers?

“Oh no, no, no,” says Mary Deviney. “I think our customers would revolt.”

Editor’s note: Of the 54 stores in the JBT’s preliminary figures for September– slightly more than the 51 stores reported in final numbers for the previous month — three were listed as consolidations, eight as acquisitions, and the balance as discontinuances.

Over the years, INSTORE has won 80 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at editor@instoremag.com.

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Sales Remain Strong, But Jewelers Moderate Expectations a Bit for 2019 Holiday Season

45% of jewelers in our survey say the season is in line with their projections.

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JEWELERS TEMPERED THEIR expectations for the 2019 holiday season as we entered the second week of December with about one in four store owners telling an INSTORE Mini Survey they had fallen behind target. That compared to just 14 percent who were similarly downbeat following a robust Black Friday opening.

Overall, sales were still strong though. Seven percent of jewelers said they were having a “terrific” season so far, 24 percent said it was better than expected and 45 percent said it was in line with their projections.

“Traffic is up but I was expecting higher traffic as this is our fourth Christmas and have really increased sales over the last year,” said Christopher Sarich, the owner of Noah Gabriel & Co. Jewelers in Wexford, PA.

Tickets continued to be strong with more than a third of jewelers saying their average sale was over $600, while a similar portion of store owners said their store traffic was up over last year (see charts below).

Diamond sales of all kinds — bridal, studs, design, fashion and lab-grown — continued to do well with almost half of the jewelers in our survey citing diamond jewelry as their best-selling item. Custom was also doing well.

“Custom! Everything from scratch to customized assembly,” said Jennifer Farnes, owner of Revolution Jewelry Works in Colorado Springs, CO.

Given the overall health of the economy and consumers’ appetite for jewelry, this could also be a good season to move aged inventory, suggested Jill Hornik, owner of Jae’s Jewelers in Coral Gables, FL.

“This is the perfect time for an inventory reduction sale to get rid of old stock. We put over 200 items over 5 years old into our case normally designated for a silver designer, and have made 31 times the revenue we normally would within that same case space.”

The second 2019 Holiday Season Mini survey was taken on Monday by 112 independent jewelers who are part of our Brain Squad readers group. We will send out more surveys over the course of the holiday season. Look out for the results each Tuesday.

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Emma Stone Shows Off Unusual (and Affordable) Engagement Ring — Take a Look

The piece comes from New York-based Catbird.

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Emma Stone engagement ring

Emma Stone is wearing the Winter Pearl Ring, a piece from Catbird that retails for $4,780.

Actress Emma Stone recently showed off her new engagement ring on Instagram.

It’s a piece called the Kataoka Winter Ring from Catbird, and it sells for $4,780 at retail, the New York Post’s Page Six reports.

Stone is engaged to David McCary, segment director for “Saturday Night Live.”

According to Catbird’s website, the ring comes “straight from the Tokyo workshop of master jeweler Yoshinobu Kataoka” and includes “a lustrous pearl … surrounded by Kataoka’s signature snowflake motif.”

It’s described as an 18 karat gold ring with 0.37 carats of diamonds and an 8 millimeter untreated Akoya pearl.

According to Page Six, New York-based Catbird is a favorite among big names such as Meghan Markle and Taylor Swift, as well as Stone.

Forbes rated Stone as the world’s highest paid actress in 2017, when she earned $26 million.

 

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4 Dead After Jewelry-Store Robbery Leads to Police Chase and Shootout (Video)

2 suspects were killed, along with a UPS driver and a bystander.

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A jewelry-story robbery in South Florida led to a police chase and shootout that left four people dead, The Associated Press reports.

Police responded to a silent alarm just after 4 p.m. at Regent Jewelers in Coral Gables. Officers arrived to find shots being fired, with two suspects still on site, according to AP.

The robbers took off in a truck and shortly afterward carjacked a UPS truck, authorities said. A harrowing police chase ensued, continuing for 20 miles and ending at a busy intersection in Miramar.

When police approached the UPS truck, a shootout erupted, leaving the two suspects dead, along with the UPS driver and a person described as an “innocent bystander” in a nearby vehicle, AP reports.

“We have just began to process the crime scene,” FBI Special Agent in Charge George Piro was quoted saying. “As you can imagine, this is going to be a very complicated crime scene.”

A jewelry-store employee was reportedly injured, but it’s unknown whether she was shot. It’s also unknown what, if anything, was taken from the store.

Read more at The Associated Press

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