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South Carolina Jeweler Takes Precautions To Open for Business This Week

Croghan’s Jewel Box of Charleston is following detailed requirements in city and state laws.



SOUTH CAROLINA’S GOV. Henry McMaster eased COVID-19 restrictions on April 20, a measure that allowed beaches and some “non-essential” retail locations, including jewelry stores, to reopen. He had ordered most non-essential retail closed by the end of March.

Rhett Ramsay Outten, co-owner of Croghan’s Jewel Box in Charleston, SC, with her sister, Mariana Ramsay Hay, expects to reopen on Wednesday for appointments, but only after making sure the business is complying with every letter of every law.

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The fourth-generation family business has kept its 27 employees paid and working at home – everyone from managers to a part-time runner — since the store closed in March. The state limits retailers to five customers per 1,000 square feet of retail space or 20 percent of capacity. It also requires that customers stay 6 feet apart and that stores adhere to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sanitation guidelines.

Late last week, Charleston enacted an ordinance that goes into much greater detail, including specifying that employees’ health must be monitored and that everyone must wear a face covering.

There have been 5,490 cases of the virus confirmed in South Carolina and the death toll had reached 174 on Sunday.

Outten is also keenly interested in a list of protocols under development by the Charleston Visitors Bureau that will lead to a “safety certified” designation for business representatives who complete training with medical professionals on how to keep workplaces safe. Such a certification could be promoted across marketing platforms to encourage tourism and hospitality.


The Medical University of South Carolina is working on making testing readily available to everyone in Charleston with 24-hour results, Outten says. “We are hoping to utilize this so all of our employees can be tested for the antibody. We will vigilantly monitor every employee’s health and make that a priority.”

Before returning to the store, the sisters called each employee and had a discussion about who felt comfortable returning, while encouraging anyone with a known risk factor for complications of the virus to remain at home.

“Any employee regardless of age who is not comfortable who wants to work from home will be paid to do so and the manager and the team member will come up with jobs that they can do to support the team off site,” Outten says. “No one feels they will lose their job if they’re not here.” People working at home can serve as phone support for repairs, write notes on behalf of the team, deliver items around town, monitor the web chat function and create clienteling lists.

Requirements change frequently, and the team regroups to make sure it’s compliant. On Friday, Outten scrambled to have posters made because the city had required that signage be displayed to encourage hand and respiratory hygiene. She also learned she would need to designate a clear one-way path through the store, including an entrance and an exit, to keep customers separated.

“The pivot is our favorite dance these days,” she says. “You run down one road and you have to pivot, sometimes you have to circle back. It’s been a real testament to the agility of our team. They are all just willing and enthusiastic to be helpful in any way they can. That’s what has gotten us through it. From the beginning we decided we were going to do everything we could to keep our employees.”

In the interim, Croghan’s has kept e-commerce alive with promising results. “People who are spending a lot of time together seem to love each other more,” she says. “We’ve sold quite a few engagement rings and have shipped or hand-delivered them. All those things seem to keep going. That’s been a blessing.”


Here’s what else Croghan’s has done specifically to prepare and to comply with state and city ordinances:

  • In preparation for opening, employees are wearing masks and gloves, cleaning cases and cleaning every piece of jewelry in the ultrasonic. Alcohol prep wipes and hand sanitizer are stashed behind every counter. Both the customer and salesperson will sanitize their hands before and after showing any jewelry. Jewelry will be wiped down when shown to a customer and before it is put back in the case. When taken in for repair, jewelry will be wiped down or put into the ultrasonic before repairs are discussed. “We see this becoming a new normal protocol for the foreseeable future,” Outten says.
  • Croghan’s designated three people as “city ordinance experts,” Outten says. One employee will be assigned to sanitation efforts per shift on the sales floor and one person will be assigned this task back of house. Employees temperatures are checked twice a day, both when they walk in the door and halfway through their shifts. The ordinance experts will also be in charge of wiping down counters, doorknobs, keyboards, phones, etc., every hour at a minimum. They will be highly sensitive to sanitation and vigilantly have their eye on the ball, reminding everyone to mask up, wash hands etc. They will be sure that sanitizer is refilled and that gloves are accessible and kept in specific spots for easy access.
  • The store is advertising personal appointments, virtual video appointments, curbside pickup and local delivery. Only three customers at a time will be permitted in the store because only three salespeople will be permitted on the floor, based on the square footage of the showroom. One jeweler at a time and an engraver will be working.
  • When customers enter, they will be asked to remove their masks, look at the camera and give their name, before putting their mask back on. The business has stocked 1,000 disposable masks at the front door, where an owner will greet customers and let them know everything that’s in place for their safety.
  • The store has placed tape on the floor to designate where everyone can stand and be 6 feet apart, particularly around the counter and at the checkout area so that customers and employees aren’t tempted to congregate too close together. “Although we will start with private appointments, if someone is outside waiting to come in, once we have the numbers correct (three people or fewer in the store), we’ll be able to let them in,” she says.

Eileen McClelland is the Managing Editor of INSTORE. She believes that every jewelry store has the power of cool within them.



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