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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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Failed Fashion Jewelry Chain Is Coming Back

It will operate primarily as an online brand.

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Jewelry and accessories retailer Charming Charlie may have gone bankrupt and closed its 261 stores, but you can expect to see the brand resurface in coming months.

Charlie Chanaratsopon, founder of the company, is acquiring its trademarks, internet properties and other intellectual property for about $1.23 million, the Houston Chronicle reports. He was approved to buy the assets following a bankruptcy auction.

He plans to revive Charming Charlie as primarily an online brand. It will have only a few permanent brick-and-mortar stores, which will open early next year.

The company’s main advantage is its 10-million-strong customer base, said Chanaratsopon, former CEO of Charming Charlie.

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“In this age of retail, we still see an opportunity for the brand to thrive in the online ecosystem,” he said, according to the Chronicle.

The company said in July that it was closing all of its stores in connection with its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filed July 11.

Read more at the the Houston Chronicle

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Online Jewelry Brand Raises $6.2M in Funding

Ross-Simons has taken a majority stake.

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CRANSTON, RI — Luca + Danni Inc., a online jewelry brand based in Rhode Island, has closed on $6.2 million in funding, with Ross-Simons Inc. becaming the majority investor in the deal.

PJC, a Boston-based VC Fund and early investor in Luca + Danni, will retain a stake in the company.

The investments “create a powerful partnership between an iconic jewelry company and three-year-old digital brand,” according to a Luca + Danni press release.

Fred Magnanimi, founder of Luca + Danni, will remain as CEO and board member.

“I started this brand to honor my family’s 50+ year heritage in US made handcrafted jewelry and help others embrace the journey of life as I learned to do after losing my brother to leukemia,” said Magnanimi. “With the amazing resources and strategic support of Ross-Simons and PJC, I am confident we will help millions embrace their own journey and continue to build our community.”

Ross-Simons, also based in Rhode Island, has a long history in retail and direct-to-consumer jewelry sales.

“Luca + Danni is a digitally native brand rapidly taking market share in the jewelry space,” said Jim Speltz, president of Ross-Simons. “Our resources, product expertise, and go-to-market experience matched with Luca + Danni’s powerful brand will foster meaningful growth in the evolving e-commerce world.”

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She Woke Up Without Her Engagement Ring. Guess Where Doctors Found It …

It all started with a dream. (Story with video.)

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A San Diego woman woke up without her engagement ring, and she immediately remembered a dream she’d had the night before.

One where she’d swallowed her engagement ring.

Jenna Evans immediately told her fiance, Bob Howell, and they headed to urgent care. She told the story in a Facebook post that has gone viral, garnering 62,000 shares as of Sept. 16.

She ended up seeing a gastroenterologist, who performed an upper endoscopy.

“Everything went great, they found my ring just beyond my stomach in my intestines, retrieved it and gave it to Bobby, not me,” she wrote.

She also divulged a bit about the dream that got her into the predicament.

“I was having a dream that Bobby and I were in a very sketchy situation involving a high speed train and bad guys (I have very exciting and vivid dreams) and he told me I had to swallow my ring to protect it; so I popped that sucker off, put it in my mouth and swallowed it with a glass of water riiiight about the time I realized what I was doing,” she explained. “I assumed this too was a dream, because WHO ACTUALLY SWALLOWS THEIR ENGAGEMENT RING, so I went back to sleep.”

The ring was made by Simone Jewelry Designs in Houston. CBS8 reports that it includes a 2.4 carat diamond.

Watch a news video about the incident:

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