America’s 10 Oldest Jewelers: Nelson Coleman Jewelers

Nelson Coleman Jewelers

Since 1856

307 E. Joppa Road
Towson, Md.

As a sixth-generation owner and general manager of Nelson Coleman Jewelers in Towson, Md., Amanda Coleman-Phelps takes the reins on a business that shuttled back and forth between Munich and the greater Washington, D.C., region before settling in Baltimore more than 100 years ago. In 2002, the store made the move to the suburbs of Baltimore—a hard decision, given the family’s long history in the city, according to Coleman-Phelps, but a practical one that offered the store’s customer base easier access and better parking. “A lot of our clientele had moved up this way,” she says. “I’d say that we’re actually going back to our roots by being innovative and diversifying and taking on more risk.” 

“What’s your legacy? What are you going to contribute?

—Amanda ColemanPhelps

Keep involved in the industry to stay on the cutting edge.
“My father, Chris Coleman, is quite an early adopter and is still involved on the board of directors we maintain. We’re part of a lot of really great benchmarking groups, we pay attention to our industry leaders, and we look at what people are doing. We pay attention to fashion, follow the trends—it’s a matter of finding that line between your business sense and trusting your instincts.”

Embrace the changes—and the challenges—of technology.
“Obviously, the Internet has had a huge impact on our business, both good and bad, but as far as technology, digital marketing has made the biggest impact on our business. We used to rely heavily on mass media vehicles like TV, print, and radio. Those are vehicles to reach the masses, but we found that they just weren’t profitable for us. We wanted to find a way that would really hit our potential clients for areas we
specialize in, like bridal and estate jewelry. Marketing automation and digital marketing, like SEO [search engine optimization], was the direction we took, and that’s what succeeded for us.”

Good business practices and a team commitment foster longevity.
“There’s a level of accountability here at our store that I think is top-notch. Just being able to have and know when you have a great group of people that complete your team and trusting them and trusting their suggestions—we’re very honest with each other, we’re honest with our numbers, and we’re smart buyers. We take the sustainability of our business seriously. If we’re doing right by the business, we’re doing right by the family.”

Look for opportunities to grow your strengths.
“The economy really doesn’t let you become complacent. You’re constantly having to be creative to make sure that you’re differentiating your part of the market. One of the things we invested in this year is diversifying our business. Estate jewelry is something we’ve done since the conception of the business, and this year we made a decision to open a separate company under the Nelson Coleman umbrella that will focus on estate buying as well as consulting with consumers on appraisals and what to do with their estate jewelry.”

Your legacy is your commitment to the future.
“I know part of being a sixth generation is figuring out what your stamp on the business is going to be—what’s your legacy and what are you going to contribute? Part of the excitement is discovering that and treating this like the first generation and not becoming complacent.” 

Top: Amanda Coleman-Phelps, Chris Coleman (far r.), and Mark and Peggy Coleman; inset: exterior and interior views of the 13-year-old Towson location

More of America’s 10 Oldest Retailers:

Bixler’s Jewelers

Shreve, Crump & Low

Black, Starr & Frost

Merkley Kendrick Jewelers


Randolph Jewelers

Shreve & Co.

Kuhn’s Jewelers

Saboe Jewelry

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