Innovative Retailer: Jen Hankin of Joint Venture Jewelry

Retailer Jen HankinNorth Carolina’s bustling Research Triangle region is jammed with fantastic jewelry stores. But for brides and grooms in the market for a well-curated selection of unique rings, Joint Venture Jewelry in Cary, N.C., has become something of a mecca.

The family-owned consignment store, which Donna and Lee Hankin founded in 1998, is stocked with 30 to 50 vintage and estate engagement rings—and another hundred modern pre-owned rings—on any given day.

Now, the couple’s two daughters, Jen and Karly, have stepped into the mix and masterminded another compelling reason for millennials and Gen Zers to stop by. In 2012, Joint Venture—led by the two 20-somethings—debuted a sibling store, Peachy Keen, that specializes in fashion apparel, shoes, and accessories for style-conscious locals.

The outpost shares the same 3,200-square-foot space with Joint Venture, and Jen, the director of communications, says the two concepts work hand in hand. “A lot of my clients who wouldn’t necessarily step into a jewelry store would come in to shop clothes,” she says. “But then they mosey over to the jewelry, and they suddenly can’t leave without that ring or bracelet.”

How does being a consignment store make you different from other fine jewelry stores?
Instead of going to a pawnshop or scraping out your gold, you can bring it to us. Then you can shop for something great. Customers who like the idea of “reduce, reuse, recycle” really like us.

vintage mine cut engagement ringWhat are the most requested jewelry items or categories?
Vintage engagement rings. Modern brides don’t want what their friends have, and they love…the filigree metal and old mine-cut and rose-cut diamonds. The sweet spot for rings for us is in the $2,000 to $6,000 range.

How did Peachy Keen come to be?
Karly went to school for fashion at the Savannah College of Art and Design. My background is in communications. Dad is a GIA-trained jeweler, and my mom was in the corporate world for years, so she has that business savvy. Combining all of our skill sets, we knew we could run this concept: a one-stop shop for fashion for women.

You mentioned that customers will come in and shop both sides—how do you promote that practice?
We have jewelry cases on one side, a permanent fashion runway in the middle of the store—we throw charity fashion shows twice a year—and Peachy Keen on the other side. So the foot traffic moves across the entire space. And every salesperson is trained for the entire store; they’re typically young women interested in fashion that have a styling background that we then train in the jewelry.

vintage sapphire and diamond engagement ringWhere do you source your jewelry?
Around 75 percent comes from individuals off the street. They bring in that inherited collection from a grandma or an aunt. They will take the one piece they love that reminds them of their loved one, then they consign the rest with us. We also work with dealers who travel around the world collecting pieces. We like to do shows with vintage vendors; we worked with a gentleman who doesn’t have a storefront but is a concierge jeweler in New York City. He brought us 300 pieces to retail in the store for a week this year. Clients came in and met him and had cocktails while he told stories about several of the pieces. They loved it.

You spearhead Joint Venture’s super-strong online presence. How has social media changed your business?
I made it my mission, when I started, to keep the store relevant and current. We’re on all the social platforms. It’s crazy keeping up with everything—but it’s so worth it. I hear people say they follow us, and that’s what brought them in. You can’t be a mom-and-pop store that opens its doors and says “Come on in” anymore. You have to go out and reach for your clients.

Photography by Jillian Clark

Jewelry from top: a 1.6 ct. mine-cut diamond engagement ring with accent diamonds; a 1.21 ct. sapphire and mine-cut diamond ring (courtesy Joint Venture)

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