For more than 40 years the Yale family has served the Wilkes County community of North Carolina. Bob Yale jumped at the chance to open a catalog showroom back in the early 1970s and before he retired had expanded to six stores throughout North Carolina. Carrying everything from toasters to jewelry, Bob’s business thrived and, like many entrepreneurs he brought his children along for the ride.
Paul Yale, youngest son of Bob and Blair, started his jewelry career in the stockroom of his father’s store. At the early age of six he sold his first ring. It wasn’t long before he was managing the store after high school and when his father retired in 1990, Paul realized his lifelong dream of opening his own store.
With a stand-alone store in a strip mall only a few miles north of his father’s store, Paul opened Brand Jewelry & Gifts. Focusing mostly on fine jewelry, Paul enjoyed developing his now thriving bridal business by carrying perfect cut and certified diamonds to suit every taste and budget. Diversifying his product line with platinum, gold and now silver jewelry has made Brand a ‘go to’ location for fine jewelry. But perhaps it is his ability to cultivate a true ‘community jewelry’ persona for the store that has been his biggest business asset.
Take, for instance, the longevity of his staff. Everyone has 10 years or more with the store. Each employee is invested not only in the business, but in every neighbor, school teacher, fire fighter that walks through their doors because they live, work and play with the people in their community.
Tiffney Willens, a Brand employee and Wilkesboro native, grew up shopping at Bob’s store and now works for Paul. Not only does she remember receiving her first birthstone ring from Brand Distributors, but she’s worked with Paul for more than 16 years now as he’s developed his own business style apart from his father’s.
“Paul is a community man. He’s always centered his business on the people who live here, whether they shop with us or not,” remarks Tiffney. “He’s a big philanthropist, supporting our local homeless shelter, children’s shelter, nursing home as well as the fight against breast cancer. He epitomizes a home town jeweler and that’s how our community sees us. That’s why we have multiple generations shopping here. That’s why I call him friend.”
When Tiffney began dabbling with her own jewelry line, Paul not only noticed, but supported her. As her pieces became more popular she needed an outlet to display and sell her earrings, necklaces, pendants and bracelets.
Paul eagerly offered her display space for her line and, despite the differing style, decided to give her an entire case.
“Paul has supported my Vintage Chic line by letting me display anywhere from 75-100 pieces in the store. He’s given me an outlet to sell my pieces in spite of the difference in style. My jewelry is handmade and it’s a little bit artisan and a little bit Boho with varying materials.”
Vintage Chic began when Tiffney started making jewelry for herself. When locals started asking where they could buy it she decided to exhibit her line at a local craft show. Paul noticed the unique, vintage style of her line and asked to carry several pieces. Now Vintage Chic has its own case.
“I use many different materials including leather, cotton, copper, other metals and even vintage buttons as a clasp on the bracelets and cuffs. I work at home after my day is done at Brand and get my middle school daughter to tell me what she likes.”
In fact Tiffney’s daughter acts as a style guide helping Vintage Chic have greater appeal to the younger generation. And, because each piece is unique, every Vintage Chic girl walks out with their own, one-of-a-kind piece.
“Being involved with jewelry for so many years has been a great inspiration to creating pieces of my own. It’s a true dream. I am thankful to have a family, friends, a boss, and coworkers that support me.”
As Paul Yale carries on his father’s legacy of being a true hometown jeweler, nowhere is the true nature of his community spirit more evident than in his support of long-time employee and friend Tiffney Willens.
Carry on Paul. Carry on.