JCK Retail Report: Back to School

Gary Simon is investing in the future of his business. Money
isn’t being budgeted for the latest technology that will separate him from
other jewelers in High Point.
He’s investing in a university program that will make student business plans start-up companies. Ultimately Simon and other company owners investing in the
program want to create the next generation of business owners while attracting
business investment to their community.

In early October, High
Point University
announced that Simon, owner of Simon’s Jewelers, donated money to create the
school’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Fund. At the heart of the
program is the Business Accelerator Fund, which takes student business plans
from conception to a working business model.

HPU undergraduate students submit business plans to the "The
Jewel of High Point" Entrepreneurship Award and Program. A grant committee then
reviews business proposals and awards grant money based on the viability and
sustainability of the plan. The Center advises and assists students in the
development of these start-up company proposals then offers seed money and
logistical support to give fledgling businesses a start. 

For the next five years, Simon will budget money for this college
program. Although Simon is an alumnus from University
of North Carolina in Chapel
Hill, the store owner’s donations to a local university is part of
an uptown revitalization project that Simon and other small business owners
hope will revive the city’s retail landscape.

Gary Simon

"There’s a portion of the downtown area that is dedicated to
the wholesale furniture market," says Simon. "But many retail businesses are
relocating to store fronts just outside that area, what we call the ‘Uptowne.’"

Simon and his staff are also donating proceeds from sales of
High Point University jewelry in addition to
dedicated funds for the Center. Designed and produced by high-end silver
jeweler designer Slane & Slane, and exclusively sold at Simon’s store,
proceeds from the school mascot panther-inspired silver and silver and diamond jewelry
designs (gold panther jewelry is made by special order) go to the Center.  

Supporting budding businesses is only one part of the
jeweler’s two-pronged community outreach effort. Simon is a firm believer that
the health of the local economy is only as good as the physical well being of
the people breathing life into it.

Donations made to the High Point Regional Health Care System
Endowment Fund helps to provide new equipment and broader health care services
through the local medical facility. "Without functioning health care [system] people
are not only unable to manage their own health but the health of their
business," says Simon.

As a board member of the High Point Core City Board, Simon
is part of a consortium of business owners and community members who share a
similar vision for their city. In the past Simon contributed to many worthy
national charities, but has scaled back on those donations to better serve his

"It only makes good business sense," says Simon. "There’s a
big difference between sending money out of town for a worthy charity versus
dedicating money to support local commerce and causes. Health care and a
healthy local economy are two areas that are making the biggest impact in this