52, first generation
28, second generation
Chae Carter was a college student with a new baby when her mother, veteran jewelry retailer Judy Carter, told her she was considering retiring and possibly closing Carter’s Jewelry—the Petal, Miss.–based fine jewelry retailer she’d founded in the 1990s. Chae was studying marketing and business at the time but, like Judy, has an entrepreneurial spirit. She ultimately threw herself into apprenticing under Judy, learning the ins and outs of jewelry retail. Now the sole owner of the shop, Chae still partners with Judy (who’s semiretired) on appraisals and inventory while working toward her graduate gemology degree at GIA online. “Really I’m just making something that was already great a little bit greater,” she says.
Passing the Torch
Chae: I never thought I would get into the jewelry industry. I wanted to be a psychiatrist! I was going to The University of Southern Mississippi and studying marketing and business. But I did have the thought that one day I’d like to start my own business.
Judy: When she was young, Chae never appeared to like jewelry at all. I was surprised when she initiated an interest in the industry. I set the bar high [when it comes to] business ethics and customer service, and she has excelled beyond what I could have imagined.
Judy: I was 23 and very determined when I started the business. Although Chae grew up in the industry, it wasn’t until she was around that same age that she expressed interest in carrying on the tradition.
Chae: It took me almost five years to figure out how to run the business. I started handling repairs, doing quality control, pricing jewelry, and photographing almost right away. I’m really big on marketing, and I started working on the social media immediately, adding Instagram and also working on the website and the store’s advertising.
Chae: My mom already had a great business and clientele. But nobody was putting it out there, really. You take a good product and a good company and you market it well, and you get growth. We’ve quadrupled our sales over the last four or five years. We’re everywhere with marketing, and our Facebook page has 18,000 likes. Our custom jewelry department has also grown exponentially in the last few years.
Judy: In the beginning, she and I were in a head-butting war over whose way was right and who was wrong. Since then, she and I both have a better understanding of how to unite the old with the new ways of doing business.
Chae: Mom is famous in these parts for being “Judy the Gemologist.” For years, her slogan was “The Super Jeweler.” I once asked her, “Did you have to set the bar so high?” [Laughs.] I’m just a Human Jeweler!
(Top: Judy and Chae Carter)
Photograph by Craig Mulcahy