The South Carolina store traces its roots back a couple of centuries when, in the 1800s, Chip's "Scotch-Irish" great-grandfather came over on the boat to open a general mercantile store in Edgefield.
In 1912 the family moved to Greenwood and opened a larger store that was divided into upscale general mercantile and jewelry. That store was right across the street from H.H. Turner's current location.
|Chip Turner, owner of H.H. Turner Jewelers in Greenwood, S.C.|
From his brilliantly renovated vintage building about 75 miles west of Columbia, Chip says, "We've come back full circle to where it all started."
Chip's great-grandfather, Wiley Herbert Turner, operated in Greenwood until the late 1920s, when two of his sons split the business, taking one part to Newberry and one part back to Edgefield, dissolving the Greenwood store.
Chip's grandfather Howard F. Turner went into business with his brother W.E. Turner, and a watch maker named Gerald Taylor joined them in Newberry.
When W.E. Sr. decided to retire, eyebrows were raised when he passed the store along to his son, W.E. Jr., instead of to Wiley and Gerald.
"There were some hard feelings," Chip says, "so my grandfather and Gerald opened a store around the corner."
That's how Newberry ended up with two Turner jewelry stores for years, Turner & Taylor Jewelers, along with W.E. Turner Jewelers.
"Bill eventually retired and closed his business," Chip remembers. "Then my father, Hugh Turner, went into business with my grandfather and Gerald in the early 1960s. We've been in business ever since."
Return to Greenwood
Meanwhile, the next generation was coming up. Chip went to college, and then joined the Navy. "While I was in the Navy four years, my brother went into business with my father and grandfather," he says. "When I got out of the service I joined them in 1992.
"My grandfather had retired a few years before, but still came into the store from time to time, did some watch repair.
"Then, in May of 1997, Mr. Frank Addy came to the store in Newberry. He was talking with my dad and said, ‘Do you all want to buy a jewelry store?' Dad said ‘Heck, no,' one's enough," Chip laughs. "But we talked about it and Dad asked me if I'd be willing to move to Greenwood and run the store being sold."
Hugh Sr. offered the needed collateral to borrow 100 percent of the purchase price plus $20,000 for startup costs. The store fell into Chip's hands in August of 1997.
"Frank Addy Jewelers had been in Greenwood 40 years and was a good, established store," Chip says. "Mr. Addy did business very much the way we did, with good, old-fashioned full service. Our two families had known each other for years."
Mr. Addy proved to be a good family friend. Three women who had worked for the jeweler for decades stayed on to work with Chip. "Mr. Addy himself stayed with me almost full-time for six months, without pay," Chip says. "I didn't know a soul in Greenwood. I had to get to know people, and prove myself."
Entrusting the Legacy
"It was important to Mr. Addy for people to know who he was turning his legacy over to, someone who would offer the same kind of good service, taking care of customers beyond the call of duty.
"He came up to me one day and grabbed my ear, about yanked it off," Chip remembers. "He said, ‘I'm just checking you out. I think I'm going to quit coming to work now. You don't look like you're about half wet back there now. You're going to be all right.'
"Then he started visiting once a week," Chip says. "Mr. Addy passed away a few years ago."
Chip paid off the loan and was able to own the business outright, but he was stuck renting his building as the owner was not willing to sell.
|Chip Turner moved into and completely renovated this building which is right beside his old location.|
So last summer Chip decided to make a big move - from 312 S. Main St. to 310 S. Main St. "I told our customers we were moving 18 inches that way," Chip says, "and they were relieved."
The structure, completed in 1903, had been a restaurant for 100 years.
"We bought it and totally gutted it," Chip says. "We stripped the entire building - all the old electrical, plumbing, wall coverings, ceiling, even structural repairs. We started from scratch."
Chip did the design work himself. "I went out to the Vegas show last year and spent two entire days going by all the booths, from architecture to lighting, to get ideas. It was the whole reason I went to the show."
Chip hired Jim Schultz of Retail Space Planning to help with showcase blueprinting and lighting. The center islands had to be custom built to fit the long, narrow space of the historic building.
"I collected hundreds of sample pictures of jewelry stores at the Vegas Show, pored through them all for a week and took the best features and combined them into my own dream store," Chip says. "I told Jim what I wanted, and he drew it."
Along with state-of-the-art showcases and open areas where customers can observe jewelry work in progress, Chip created a beautiful sitting area for his customers, with a stone fireplace, flat-screen TV and coffee service. "We even have a downstairs bathroom now," Chip laughs. "That's awesome. We went from roughing it to the Hilton."
A Bishopville, S.C., consultant named Bruce Denny, who had handled two sales for Chip's father over the years, assisted Chip with a moving sale early this year.
"The store is one of the prettiest I have ever seen; it's well laid out," Bruce says. "Chip did most all the design work as far as where everything went. It's just a beautiful place. For them to fix it up like they did is just amazing.
"I was there for a while helping with his moving promotion. We had a tremendous crowd. It just goes to show that promoting is a good thing to do and brings in business even in these hard times."
"We did a ton of advertising and did very good numbers," Chip confirms.
"Business is good, all things considered," he says. The store's bridal business remains strong, as does repair work and remakes. High-end fashion may be the most hurt by the recession.
H.H. Turner, which reflects Chip's given name, Howard Hugh, does a lot of in-house and custom design work. "The only thing we don't do in-house is platinum casting," Chip says. "All repairs are done here. I do design work, along with another jeweler who's been working with me about eight years."
Chips plans for the future are to enjoy the fruits of his renovation labors. "I should have no problems to worry about until I retire," he says. "I have two children, ages 8 and 10, and God forbid they have to go into retail to make a living," he laughs.
"I'll make sure they have this to fall back on. Once I'm secure in the knowledge they have a career doing something else, I'll sell and retire."
But for now, the family business goes on.
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