Industry / Retail

Champaign Jewelers Turns Up the Sparkle in Its New Store


Champaign Jewelers and its “Sparkle Squad” are comfortably settled in their new location, and the team at this woman-run business got even closer on the journey from a gravel floor to the custom space they now have, owner Kari Smith says.

In late 2022, Smith decided her Champaign, Ill.–based jewelry business had outgrown its 1,600-square-foot store—she literally could not fit any more employees in.

“There was nowhere to put them. Our break room had desks in it,” Smith recalls.

A nearby retailer was ready to sell its property, so Smith took a look at it. The real estate agent told her it would be a complete rebuild, and that was no exaggeration. The store had no floor, unfinished walls, and a floor plan that was more than open—it was just plain old empty.

Champaign Jewelers
Blue walls next to its logo and sleek white display cabinets give Champaign Jewelers a calming, neutral interior to highlight its sparkling diamonds, owner Kari Smith says.

Construction wasn’t something Smith had planned to do, but the opportunity to create exactly what she desired in a jewelry store was tempting enough to get her to go all-in. The new location is like an anniversary present: Champaign Jewelers is celebrating its 10th year in business in 2023.

Its former store was located in a strip mall on South Neil Street and had the basics, Smith says, but she wanted the new space—located in the Village at the Crossing shopping area—to reflect the high level of customer service her employees offer. They are her Sparkle Squad because of their commitment to helping people find diamond jewelry for gifts and themselves.

Now that the dust has settled, Champaign Jewelers‘ new store has the room and welcoming culture Smith sought. It’s designed so customers feel like they are coming in to visit friends—an open floor plan with some private spaces.

Champaign interior
Because the store had to be rebuilt from the ground up, Smith could make room for everyone to browse and include private spaces for meeting, events, and jewelry design.

Customers enter through large double doors and into the main selling area, which features white and warm blue walls; sleek, modern displays; and neutral-colored decor. The cases are clean white with glass fronts, to display the custom jewelry Smith makes. Black columns provide visual interest.

“There’s a ton of windows, so we wanted to create a peaceful, open space. We wanted a light, airy feel. So the color combination of blues and neutral wood tones ties into that,” Smith says. “You get the sparkle from our chandeliers.”

Smith says she hopes her customers enjoy the larger space and find it comfortable for selecting their diamond and engagement jewelry, which are her specialties. She studied economics in college and managed another local jewelry store before opening her shop in 2013.

Kari Smith
Smith says one of her favorite roles is as jewelry designer, working with clients on custom projects such as engagement rings. 

The new store’s layout gives everyone enough room, Smith says, with private meeting spaces, a design studio, and a conference room to hold customer events.

“We had a packed grand opening [in March] with more than 40 people in the store, and we still had space to move,” Smith says.

Top: The “Sparkle Squad” at Champaign Jewelers in Champaign, Ill., had grown so much, store owner felt it was time to move to a larger location. Now open, the new space is her “dream store,” Smith says. (Photos courtesy of Champaign Jewelers)

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Karen Dybis

By: Karen Dybis

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