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Space, volume and light create modern shopping experience.

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Hale’s Jewelers, Greenville, SC

OWNER: Lucian Lee; URL: halesjewelers.com; ONLINE PRESENCE: 4.9 star average with 296 Google reviews; 8,000 Facebook followers; FOUNDED: 1856; Opened featured location: 2021; AREA: 8,000 square-foot showroom; 9,500 square feet total; ARCHITECT AND DESIGN FIRMS: DP3, Larry Johnson, The Heirloom Companies, Maven Construction; TOP BRANDS: Rolex, Forevermark, A. Link, JB Star, Kwiat, Yourline Jewelry, Fana, Tissot, William Henry; EMPLOYEES: 15 full-time; 5 part-time


Lucian Lee

Lucian Lee’s post-college job led to a fulfilling career.

WHEN LUCIAN LEE walked into Hale’s Jewelers to buy an engagement ring in 1973, he found the perfect ring — and also found a job to pay for that ring.

It led to a happily-ever-after story in more ways than one. Lee and his wife, Jeanie, have been married for 47 years, and although she has been gifted with other rings since then, she still treasures the original. As a recent college graduate, Lee also fell in love with the jewelry business and the people at Hale’s, so much so that the job he walked into turned into a long and rewarding career.

“I was fortunate enough to be adopted into the family,” he says. “It was my passion, and they recognized it.” Eventually, Lee formed a partnership with the Sullivan brothers, who owned the store. After the brothers both retired, Lee bought the business in 2000.

By 2020, Hale’s had been in one location for 40 years. And Lee was ready to transform his historic retail jewelry company into something that would make a splash in Greenville, SC, while offering a modern selling experience.

The company was founded in 1856 (making it the oldest business in Greenville), and since then, it had taken on a variety of forms, ranging from a wooden structure on Main Street in the beginning to a mall and freestanding locations later on. But Greenville had grown, and so had its residents’ expectations. Lee believed it was time to make another move.

Uplifting Architecture Shows Historic South Carolina Jewelry Store in a New Light

The new store is a theme of the marketing strategy.

Architect Meg Terry and her team with DP3 in Greenville had a tall order with the design of the prospective new location, which was to be built in a development that was mixed use but still largely residential. Hale’s and its neighbor, a men’s store, represented the first wave of retail construction. The master plan for the site required the store be two stories. “So, while Lucian didn’t need a two-story, we needed to give him one,” Terry says.

Terry and team had to make the soaring, dramatic space feel homey and welcoming, which was Lee’s highest priority. “We had to mitigate the height so it didn’t feel like a vast canyon,” Terry says.

And from the perspective of his thriving repair business, Lee wanted the store to be convenient for people to run in and out of without having to navigate obstacles or a circuitous traffic pattern. It has a dual purpose in that sense: relaxing enough to hang out, but with a simple floor plan that allows for quick visits, too.

“The goal was to create an experience, an environment where they’d want to come hang out for a while, and if you have 10 different conversations going on, you don’t feel on top of each other,” Lee explains. The hangout areas include a hospitality space, the first time Hale’s has had one that is a prominent feature in the store. Guests can enjoy coffee or a glass of wine in a seating area incorporated into the design center.

Showcases allow for side-by-side selling. “The new world of retail is about interactive shopping,” Lee says. “This space gave us the opportunity to have plenty of room to self-shop or shop with the salesperson.”

Although Terry had worked on other retail projects, this was her first jewelry store, so she had no preconceived notion of what should or shouldn’t be done. “We try to be specific to the needs of the user and the owner and make sure it makes sense for how they want the space to feel and work,” she says.

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Of three conceptual options presented to him, Lee chose one with the working title of “The Jewel Box.” The soaring slope of the roof suggests a jewelry or gift box being opened.

A sculptural custom light fixture reinforces the jewel box concept, particularly at night, when it resembles the glowing jewels within. The Heirloom Companies, a local metalworking firm, was commissioned to create a piece that characterized a floating jewel-like sculpture. “There is not another fixture like that in the world,” Terry says. “It was an effort to fill that big void. To bring the scale down over the center section of the store was really important.”

Shop-in-shops for Rolex and Forevermark were to be integral to the store, and so Terry and team made sure they coordinated well with the rest of the space. “The color and the finishes felt cohesive but still gave those brands their own identity,” she says.

Natural light is plentiful and can be filtered with remote-controlled shades. A vertical fin structure on the exterior ties into the architecture while filtering the light as well. Glass is high-tech, double paned and reinforced to meet security standards, similar to hurricane glass. “There’s not anything better to show off what we sell than natural light,” Lee says.

Since it’s opened, Terry has enjoyed observing how customers experience the space. “I took my grandmother’s jewelry in to have it appraised, and I was sitting there waiting, and it was cool watching how people mingle and use the space. In their previous store, when 15 people were in there, it felt tight and uncomfortable. When I was there at the new store, there were 30 people and it felt spacious and still welcoming.

“There’s nothing much like this in Greenville. It’s a differentiator for sure. That was the intention of it. To make sure it was identifiable as Hale’s and a cornerstone of the area.”

Because the store has such a wow factor, Bottom Line Marketing designed a “Come as You Are” ad campaign in 2021 to reassure Greenville residents they didn’t need to be rich to walk in the doors. The goal was to increase awareness that if you have $50 to spend or $50,000, Hale’s would treat you the same way.

Uplifting Architecture Shows Historic South Carolina Jewelry Store in a New Light

The company’s history is highlighted within a modern wall case, along with select jewelry.

“For a lot of their branding campaigns, we do use the store because it’s such an interesting design and the inside of the store is so beautiful, so unique, showcasing jewelry as art,” says Sarah Gray, Bottom Line’s account manager for Hale’s. “Any time we’re not using images of brides, we love to use photos of the store.”

Hale’s has a 12-month TV, outdoor, digital, social and holiday catalog program that keeps the brand, the brand’s faces and the jewelry at the forefront of everything. “People come in after seeing us on YouTube and feel like they already know us,” Lee says.

Of course, for any business owner who operated a store, let alone opened a new one in the early years of the pandemic, added stress was a given. The ribbon-cutting took place with everyone wearing masks, out in the parking lot.

“I certainly aged in the last few years,” Lee says. “We started, and four months later, the world changed, but construction continued and we continued. It was stressful, but we were fortunate when we opened that the world was starting to come back.” In some ways, though, the timing was optimal. “Because people had not been able to travel and to do other things, it did create an opportunity.”

That unexpected opportunity, combined with the new location, almost guaranteed a successful outcome. “It’s something new and different in a good area,” he says. “We were just fortunate. We have pretty heavy traffic most all of the time, even in January, which used to be slower.”

Uplifting Architecture Shows Historic South Carolina Jewelry Store in a New Light

Five Cool Things About Hale’s Jewelers

1. ORIGIN STORIES. In the beginning, the gold used by Hale’s was sourced from a local mine. The store was known for engraving and for crafting love tokens such as watch fobs or hair bows braided with hair and thin threads of gold for soldiers during the Civil War. Hale’s was spending money on advertising as early as the 1860s. Early maps had no street names, and so ads for the store, instead of listing an address or intersection, would offer directions such as two blocks east and a few paces north of the courthouse.

2. BONUS SPACE. The second floor isn’t entirely volume and open space. There’s office space, a conference room and a lobby on the second floor along one end of the store, which provides a good view of the showroom. The space is convenient for training sessions or private client meetings.

3. ALL ABOUT SYSTEMS. The structural part of the high-volume business is all about systems. “After 165 years, we have learned a few tricks in how to make our operations run smoothly,” Lee says. “From shipping, receiving, invoicing, marketing, sales, management, we all work as one. No one department is greater than the other and everyone treats everyone like family.”

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4. OWNERSHIP IN A NUTSHELL. The business was founded in 1856 by James Hunter Randolph. In 1887, his grandson, William Randolph Hale, took over and renamed it Hale’s Jewelers. In 1910, William Randolph Hale Jr. installed Hale’s Clock, a landmark that served as the standard time for Greenville’s residents. In 1923, Hewlett Sullivan Sr. bought the business, which remained in the Sullivan family for the rest of the 20th century, until 2000 when Lucian Lee bought Hale’s. The landmark clock still stands outside the new store.

5. LOCAL TALENT. “It was important for me for everyone from the architects to the builder to the interior designer to be part of my local community,” Lee says. “For the most part, the store was built with local talent. I’m proud of that. We promote ‘shop local,’ and I needed to live that creed.”

PHOTO GALLERY (7 IMAGES)

JUDGES’ COMMENTS
  • mitchell clark:The exterior of the store definitely has a “wow” factor with its unique and visually pleasing architecture. That “wow” factor is not lost on the interior with the high ceilings, natural light and the contemporary chandelier filling the length of the store. Hale’s may be the oldest business in Greenville, but this s.
  • lyn falk:They pushed the envelope with the architectural style of the exterior, which really sets the stage for the brand. The interior is elegant and incorporates artistic elements that reflect the artistic brand.
  • Bruce Freshley: Lucian Lee has built a stunner! The new Hale’s Jewelers is one of the most beautiful, most captivating and inspirational jewelry stores in America. It’s actually one of the most dramatic retail stores of any kind I have seen in years. The drama continues inside where the interior looks like an important art gallery where the glass and the convex roofline and ceiling races skyward, lifting both the spirit and I suspect the average ticket. Everywhere you look there are rich fabrics, fixtures and furniture that exude taste, befitting of the flagship brands that are lovingly displayed in the cases.
  • jacqueline johnson:Their involvement in the community and their “family” structure is what drew me in. The architecture and interior design are great, too!

 

Try This: Company Culture? Make It a Family.

Members of the Hale’s team vacation together, have house parties, and prank each other. They also pick each other up when life gets tough. “We don’t have a staff,” Lee says. “We have a family at Hale’s, and Hale’s is home to great people who know how to build relationships. We have a team member, Elaine, who started working at Hale’s a very long time ago. She left to raise her family. Nearly 30 years later, she came back and asked for her job back. It’s the only job she’s ever had, and she’s been back with us ever since.”

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Moving Up — Not Out — with Wilkerson

Trish Parks has always wanted to be in the jewelry business and that passion has fueled her success. The original Corinth Jewelers opened in the Mississippi town of the same name in 2007. This year, Parks moved her business from its original strip mall location to a 10,000-square foot standalone store. To make room for fresh, new merchandise, she asked Wilkerson to organize a moving sale. “What I remember most about the sale is the outpouring excitement and appreciation from our customers,” says Parks. Would she recommend Wilkerson to other jewelers? “I would recommend Wilkerson because they came in, did what they were supposed to and made us all comfortable. And we met our goals.”

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