They say never burn a bridge you may need to cross later. Sandy Jones took that advice to heart when she left her first Atlanta job 35 years ago. Knowing only that she didn’t want to sit at a desk, she’d only been at her first job a year when life took her in another direction. Although she’s traveled many miles since then, evolving her design talent and jewelry career, life has a funny way of dropping you right back where you started, and Sandy couldn’t be happier.
My Mother-in-Law Did It!
As a newlywed in the early 1980s, Sandy’s mother-in-law, manager of the Jewelry Department, recommended her for a position registering brides at Charles Willis, Inc., a fine jewelry and gift store in Atlanta. Typical desk jobs didn’t interest Sandy, but this non-traditional job intrigued her. Her immediate past experience as a bride added youthful energy to this Atlanta landmark. While working at the store she met the pearl designer/stringer who took the time to teach her how to string pearls. Sandy practiced at home and started dabbling with designing jewelry.
When an unexpected health issue left the store without a stringer, they called on Sandy to fill the holiday gap. What she lacked in experience she made up for in perseverance. Every mistake, and there were numerous ones in the beginning, required starting over. It made her work even harder to get it right.
This new found talent prompted her to buy beads and pearls and dive deeper into jewelry design, putting her pieces in the cases at Charles Willis. At the same time she picked up stringing work from other stores, and obtained her resale license in 1984.
Over the next ten years Sandy grew her retail stringing business, working both with retailers and consumers. Often her clients would commission one-of-a-kind pieces stretching both her talent and creativity.
It wasn’t long before the big stores took notice of her designs. Through a fluke, she obtained a vendor number at Neiman Marcus in 1991. Walking through Saks Fifth Avenue one day in 1996, an employee stopped her to ask about her necklace. Realizing Sandy was the designer she quickly called the manager over and ordered several for the store. Between trunk shows and trade shows Sandy was fulfilling orders for thirteen stores plus presenting at three shows, including AGTA Vegas, Tucson and the SJTA Atlanta Jewelry Show. It was amazing, exciting and exhausting.
Needing a break she backed off the show circuit in 2007 and rode out the Saks/Neiman business until she was told they were eliminating independent vendors. It had been a sweet gig, but she could use the rest.
Then, at the age of 60, she became a silent partner in a local Atlanta retail shop. Having experienced the ups and downs of the business, Sandy calmly maneuvered her way through a partnership that eventually dissolved in 2015, only to find her phone ringing once again in 2016.
“It’s funny how life comes full circle. A year after my previous partnership dissolved, Edyth Shadburn, owner of Charles Willis, called to ask if I would take over the jewelry concession. I was thrilled and jumped at the chance to come back home.”
This time, however, Sandy doesn’t walk into her new position as an industry rookie. Instead, she brings decades of design and retail experience with her, as well as something else - her name. The sign out front reads, “Charles Willis”, and underneath that it says “Sandy Jones Jewelry.” She sells her own designs alongside the regular merchandise and welcomes custom orders and redesigns. And the best part of all is her mother-in-law was around to see it all come to fruition on opening day last September.
It was a glorious homecoming.