The Jewelry District, Episode 18: Guest Rhett Outten

In This Episode
In this edition of The Jewelry District you’ll hear JCK editor-in-chief Victoria Gomelsky and news director Rob Bates interview Rhett Outten, co-owner of Croghan’s Jewel Box. Rhett talks about her store closing six weeks ago, the logistics of running a store during the COVID-19 crisis, and how her store’s online social presence has helped business.

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Show Notes
00:50 Introducing Rhett Outten, co-owner of Croghan’s Jewel Box.
05:16 Victoria asks about Rhett’s store closing and how they’ve managed despite the crisis.
07:50 Rob asks about logistics of running a store.
12:08 Rhett tells a story about a bridal customer.
13:28 Rob asks about emergency small business loans; Victoria asks about social and online presence.
16:58 Rob asks about store protocol; Victoria asks what Rhett is going to take with her after the crisis is over.

Episode Credits
Hosts: Rob Bates and Victoria Gomelsky
Editor: Olivia Briley
Producer and engineer: Katey Clifford and Kathy Passero

Show Recap

Rhett Outten, Co-Owner of Croghan’s Jewel Box
Victoria and Rob introduce their guest Rhett Outten, co-owner of Croghan’s Jewel Box in Charleston, S.C. This family jewelry business has been around since 1903. The building was bought in the 1970s and is more than 100 years old. Rhett tells the story of her company spanning three generations of her family—starting with her grandfather (who was a hand engraver and bench jeweler), followed by her mother, who brought out the retail aspects. Rhett manages the social media and online presence, while her sister manages the more corporate side of things.

The Impact of Store Closings
Rhett expected her store to be closed for at least two weeks, but she’s now surpassed six. Rhett describes the ominous feeling she had at the beginning of the crisis, when everything was beginning to shut down. What has helped keep the payroll of their 27 employees going was Rhett’s spearheading the social media side of things with a great online presence. You’ll hear Rhett talk about her sister’s idea for a “social distancing deal of the day.”

Running a Store During COVID-19
Rob asks Rhett about the difficulties she’s faced in running her store during this time. Rhett explains how she has created “zones” in her store—where only one person works in a zone at a time in order to practice social distancing in accordance with the recommendations in her city. They have a very small staff at any point in-store, have drive-by pickups for purchased jewelry, and have one-on-one private appointments to keep their store as clear of people as possible.

A Happily Ever After
You’ll hear Rhett tell a touching story of a groom who came in looking for a custom ring to be made with family stones, on a time line of six weeks. It wasn’t long before this groom just couldn’t wait to marry the love of his life anymore—so he asked Rhett if he could just get a diamond wedding band instead to marry his sweetheart as soon as possible—with a special engraving on the band.

The Business Side of Things
Rob asks about Paycheck Protection Program loans and small business emergency loans. Rhett has never had to apply for one before—but she was thankful to be approved when she did during this time. Victoria asks about the chat function that Rhett has recently implemented on her website to keep in touch with customers. Sometimes human contact really is everything.

Protocol While in the Store
There are certain measures you can take to make sure your employees are staying safe during COVID-19. They vary by location, but some of the things Rhett is doing is making sure everyone uses face masks, wiping down everything with antiseptic wipes, and using hand sanitizer diligently combined with frequent hand washing. There is also one door to enter and another to exit as well as tape markers on the floor to maintain distance. Victoria asks if Rhett will be doing anything differently after this crisis is over—and Rhett says she’ll keep up her online presence.

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