|(l-r) Tom Young and Bob Glenn, owners of Charleston, South Carolina based Cargo Hold. They have been in business together for 35 years.|
The Cargo Hold is a wholesale jewelry supply business operating in Charleston, SC. It is owned and operated by Tom Young and Bob Glenn, who focus on high quality, unique jewelry that is hard to come by. Unlike other small business owners these men didn't aspire to develop a large, multi-million dollar business. Instead, Tom and Bob have remained committed to finding a niche and filling it. They set out 35 years ago as a small and personable company selling unique and high quality products and it is very apparent that while they have grown tremendously, they retain the personable, unique quality traits.
But The Cargo Hold didn't start as a wholesale jewelry business in 1973. The company started as a retail shop located in the heart of downtown Charleston selling hand-made gift items. Although they gained a solid reputation for carrying unique merchandise, the downtown Charleston retail district hadn't started thriving at that point. Only after Tom and Bob discovered Italian coral did they understand the demand that existed for this type of product.
"We were on a buying trip for our retail store and needed Italian coral. When we got it back to our shop we started receiving requests to purchase it. It was then we realized that not everybody could get this in the States," says Tom. "That's when our wholesale business really took hold. We were simply meeting a need."
As time went on the two men continued to operate the retail side of the business while supplying jewelers and designers with products they needed. It worked for a while, but after several years Bob and Tom decided it was time to drop the retail side and concentrate on what really mattered to them; fulfilling a need for hand-made, high-quality products.
Before long the two men became known throughout the industry for their hand-made silver and Italian products. They were selling to bead makers, jewelry designers and anyone else who needed their specialty products.
|Tom Young and Bob Glenn in 1975.|
"Once we developed solid relationships with several of the Italian manufacturers, other doors opened giving us a broad product line from which to choose," recalls Bob. "And these are companies that we still do business with today, 30 years later."
Wholesale requires a great deal of travel. The two men set out across the country calling on anyone who could use their products. From tradeshows to traveling, Bob and Tom spent most of their time on the road.
Building their business wasn't hard. Going back to tap the Italian market proved very effective, as well as other international resources. But the two man team also paid close attention to American hand-made products. They quickly became the name associated with hand-made and better quality machine made jewelry lines.
"We've been able to supply products that not many other wholesalers have," states Tom. "We've really became known for our silver chain by the foot."
As time passed Tom and Bob remained flexible. Feeling it was vitally important to "Roll with changes," this savvy business team hasn't rested on their laurels.
"We've adapted where we buy our product, who we buy from and what we buy," recalls Bob. "It's what helped us weather the economic storms."
Today The Cargo Hold is busy building another quiet storm of demand in their latest product offering, Southern Gates; a collection of filigree jewelry reminiscent of traditional ironwork in gates, grilles and balconies across America. Originally targeted as a product that would do well in Charleston, Tom and Bob have, once again, come to realize that demand exceeds their expectations.
Doing business their way has made The Cargo Hold a success, and Bob and Tom have no future plans to do "big business." Instead they will continue to focus on filling niches and supplying hand-made product to those who appreciate it. When asked what advice they have for those just starting in the business, they have this to say:
Tom: "If what you're doing feels too much like hard work then drop back and assess it. It shouldn't feel like work if you're in the right place."
Bob: "Enjoy what you're doing because good things flow from that. I find beauty in the objects I see and success flows from this."
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