Crisis in the Gulf Hasn’t Hurt Jewelers…Yet

As the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico became the focus of media attention and citizen frustration, JCK talked to jewelers in the surrounding area to determine if the calamity has affected business.

Yet even as the environmental disaster threatened beaches on the Gulf Coast, local retailers remain upbeat. In Mobile, Ala., Mary Hayes, owner of Hayes Jewelers, says business at her store is “better than last year.”

“I’ve heard of the effects on all the people who have restaurants and vacation spots, but we haven’t seen that it’s affected us yet,” she says. “I’m optimistic that we’ll get this cleared up and the beaches will come back.” Hayes speculated the spill might even give the area an unexpected economic boost: “I did talk to a young man on one of the cleanup crews who’s making $300 a day. That will have a positive impact on the economy.”

Others, however, aren’t quite as upbeat about their local economies—especially when it comes to the employment situation. “I have people with bachelor’s degrees working on a master’s applying for a salesperson job,” says Len Klutts, owner of Klutts Jewelers in Morgan City, La. “But there won’t be a lot of hiring unless it’s related to the cleanup.”

As the oil slick drifted toward ­Florida and its miles of beaches, media attention has also turned to the state’s tourism industry. In the coastal city of Sarasota, people were still breathing easy in mid-June.

“There’s no oil on our shores,” noted Jean Urban, a salesperson at Koen Fine ­Jewelers in Sarasota. She said the store had not yet experienced any effects from the disaster, and she gave some credit to local media. “I think they’re trying to get the word out that we are not affected at this point as far as having oil on our beaches.”

Speaking to JCK on June 15, the day President Obama visited her area, ­Ashleigh Bigby, manager at Bere ­Jewelers in Pensacola, Fla., seemed more excited about the presidential stopover than worried about the oil spill hurting business.

“The community does have a lot of people whose careers are out at sea, so we might see some declining sales, but so far we’re staying busy,” she said. “I was at the beach Saturday night, at a nice new restaurant, and it was packed.”

But emotions are definitely running high in Pensacola. “Everybody is mad, really angry,” Bigby said. “All anyone talks about is oil. But as far as jewelry goes, everyone is happy.”