For many people looking to get into the jewelry industry, buying an already established, family-owned store in a small town, complete with a history of 80 years of business, would seem like the perfect deal. You’d not only get a shot at keeping existing customers, but you’d have the credibility and reputation that only eight decades of business could give you. However, what sounds good on paper may not be what it seems.
Leland and Jill Roberts, along with Leland’s parents, Dice and Lynn Roberts, purchased the existing inventory, name and reputation of a foreclosed retailer in Tifton, GA five years ago, hoping to start a new career. Leland, who was a banker at the time, told his new bride of two months about the great opportunity and together they bought their first jewelry store.
“We were interested in buying it because it had been successful for so many years and we felt like it could be again,” Leland said. “Jill was looking for a new opportunity, so I asked her how she felt about owning and running our own jewelry business. She looked at me like I was crazy.”
“I thought he was crazy,” states Jill. “Although I’d previously been in retail, we had no experience in the jewelry industry. All we knew was that the previous jewelry store had been there for 78 years and there was minimal competition, so we decided that someone had to do it, so it may as well be us.”
In the summer of 2007 the newly married couple opened the doors under the original name in the same space as the former store. But it didn’t take long to realize they needed to establish their own identity. Three months later they changed the name to Roberts & Company Jewelers.
“As we started talking to our customers we realized that we needed to move away from the established identity of the store and move toward an identity of our own,” states Leland. “We thought there was credibility in the name and reputation, but there wasn’t and we found ourselves in need of an identity change.”
Having no background or experience in jewelry, they found themselves at the mercy of a few great salesmen in the industry who helped them get connected to the right people regarding supplies, inventory and purchasing decisions.
For 2 years Roberts & Company Jewelers remained in the old space of the original jeweler, but by the summer of 2009 Jill and Leland made a decision to join a local accounting firm and purchase a building in downtown Tifton, on the corner of 2nd Avenue and Love. The building was over 80 years old and full of character. The 12,000 square foot building needed work, but between the two businesses renovations lasted only four months before the building was ready and Roberts & Company Jewelers moved in.
“We are extremely proud of this building,” Leland said. “We have lots of exposed brick, 18-foot ceilings with original decorative tin. It really reflects the fact that we are located in beautiful historic downtown Tifton and we’ve gotten a lot of compliments from customers, not only about the building, but about how easy it is to find us here.”
Now going in their fifth year of business, Roberts & Company Jewelers continues to grow its customer base, building its reputation one customer at a time. Jill handles the day-to-day business of the store while Leland owns and manages a medical management company. He handles the financial side of the jewelry store, leaving his full-time job in the afternoon and turning his attention to the jewelry store in the evening.
“We’re still here five years later, but it wasn’t without some bumps and bruises along the way,” he said. “We were very fortunate in the beginning to meet Randy Lindsey, who took us under his wing and introduced us to the right people. He was as major factor in helping us get our foot in the door within this industry. Buddy Frazier did the same for us, and without them I’m not sure what we’d have done.”
It takes a lot to keep any new business going, but Jill and Leland understand, probably better than most, that trust is key to business success.
“We didn’t start to succeed until we established trust with our customers,” recalls Jill. “They needed to know that we were going to be here when they came back. We want to regain more bridal business in the future and establishing long-term trust is a key ingredient for that. We’ll get there. It will just take a little time.”
Be sure to visit robertsandcompanyjewelers.com or contact Leland and Jill at the store 229-382-1788.
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