Bell Jewelers in Murfreesboro, Tenn., turns 135 years old this month—making it (by far) the oldest retailer in Rutherford County, where Murfreesboro is the county seat.
Its owners, brother and sister Greg Tidwell and Lisa Tidwell Halliburton, are celebrating the milestone—and the store’s place in the region’s history—with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Aug. 19 featuring members of the chamber of commerce “and lots of cake,” says Halliburton.
Courtesy Bell Jewelers
Lisa Tidwell Halliburton and Greg Tidwell, brother-and-sister co-owners of Bell Jewelers
“I think everyone knows we’ve been in business for a long time,” Halliburton added, “but I’m not sure they know we’re the oldest retail business in our county. But we do talk about it a lot, and it’s on all our advertising.”
In 1879, William R. Bell launched the business, which passed to his son, James G. Bell. “Then nobody in the family wanted it, so it went up for sale,” says Halliburton. A family named Dixon eventually purchased the store, and owned it until 1973, when the Tidwells took it over.
Halliburton attributes the shop’s longevity to superb customer service. “Being so customer-service oriented has really kept us going,” she says. “You often go into a store and don’t have the same people waiting on you more than once. We have employees who have been with us for 10-plus years. When we go to market, we’re usually buying with a particular customer in mind.”
Courtesy Bell Jewelers
The interior of Bell Jewelers
She adds, “We’re also fortunate to have so many experts in our store—we have a certified Rolex watch [repairman], and my brother and I are both certified gemologists through GIA and AGS.”
Halliburton reports there’s no sibling rivalry at Bell, saying, “Greg and I get along great. When we bought the store from our parents in 2008, we pretty much made a pact saying we couldn’t [run the business] without one another. If there’s a decision and one of us isn’t into it, we don’t do it.”
When asked if the next generation of Bell Jewelers owners is waiting in the wings, Halliburton laughs and says, “I have two children, and Greg has three. We always joke that we have five chances to see the business continue when we’re done.”