Nashville is known for many things; southern cooking, country music and superstars. But no one shines brighter than Carolyn Linder, owner and operator of Lindell Jewelers in Brentwood, TN. Carolyn’s 20 years of success is the result of what some people would call bad boundaries: a blurry line between business and personal relationships. Calling all of her customers “true friends,” Carolyn’s deep southern accent (think Paula Dean) coupled with a desire to give back make her an unforgettable personality in the Nashville jewelry scene. And it all began in a most unusual way.
Twenty years ago a local Brentwood retailer decided to call it quits. Two women who worked together in the store were convinced by their customers to continue in the business. Carolyn Linder and Barbara O’Dell opened Lindell Jewelers in 1991, deciding to stay in the Brentwood area.
Their space was small – about 300 square feet. Their merchandise was limited – about $75,000 on loan, and their staff small – just the two of them. Regardless, they worked long hours making customers happy and building relationships.
“I’ve always believed independent jewelers have an edge over box stores because they’ve forgotten that personal touch,” states Carolyn. “The independent jeweler just needs go back to the basics of building relationships and selling jewelry instead of worrying where their next dollar is coming from.
“We love what we do. We don’t just sell jewelry, we are good to our people and we believe they’ll be good back to us.”
Carolyn’s business philosophy proved reliable and, with each passing year, she refined her ability to purchase merchandise that appealed to her clients. Believing the two most important factors in business are “knowing what you’re selling and knowing your customer,” Carolyn and her staff spend a lot of time asking their customers questions.
“We ask a lot of questions about whom they’re buying for and what the occasion is, but we never ask what their budget is,” states Carolyn. “We believe selling jewelry isn’t about budget. It’s about loving the person you’re giving it to. We sell from the heart.”
Today Lindell Jewelers has 1400 square feet of floor space and carries medium priced merchandise. The staff puts a tremendous amount of effort in calling their customers personally when they don’t stop by for a while and asking them to stop by and see new merchandise or receive a free jewelry cleaning.
But more than just connecting with her customers over jewelry, Carolyn and her staff of four freely donate to any charity that asks for help. Yes, you read that correctly. Carolyn never turns down anyone asking for a charitable donation. Whether it’s the Ronald McDonald House, the local soccer club, a police fund raiser or the Autism Society; Lindell Jewelers contributes to them all.
Carolyn explains: “I donate to everyone because I told the Lord, ‘if you let me stay in business, pay my employees and earn a salary I’ll bless as many people as I can,’ and I’m not going back on my promise. We don’t turn down any organization.”
Lindell’s participation in charity events stems from Carolyn’s childhood experiences in an orphanage. At 10 years old Carolyn went to live at a local children’s home where she spent the rest of her childhood. She went on to marry and have children of her own, but will never forget the impact that experience had on her life. In essence, Carolyn always remembers what life is really about.
“I’m really not in this business for the money. I don’t need it to make me happy. I’ve had numerous hotels ask me to open a branch in their lobbies or a kiosk on their premises and I’ve refused every time because, for me, this is about service.”
Carolyn and her staff put their money where their heart is. On an annual basis the store donates approximately $40,000 in jewelry, $20,000 in cash and $150,000 in gift certificates. Most recently their fund raising efforts have been a little closer to home. Carolyn’s autistic grandson needs a piece of medical equipment that averages around $12,000. She keeps a fishbowl on her counter accepting donations in honor of her grandson. She confidently states, “We’ll get there! I know we’ll get there.”
But it would be so easy to draw the line at material donations. Most of us would, but not Carolyn and her staff. They reach out to their home-bound customers by helping them get to hair appointments and other necessary places. Carolyn also keeps an eye out for new, independent business owners just starting out and invites them to come into Lindell’s and set up a booth or table to introduce their business to Lindell’s customers.
In short Carolyn spends as much time giving as she does selling, and that combination really works for her and her business.
“I really just want to be remembered for my heart,” she states.
Carolyn, you’re already there!