Peeking Into Charleston Mainstay Croghan’s Jewel Box

A South Carolina jewelry store grows to celebrate its centennial

In the early 1900s, Croghan’s Jewel Box was the enclosed porch of a 1794 Charleston home where bench jeweler/hand-engraver William Joseph Croghan worked. In the 1930s, William’s daughter, Mary, turned Croghan’s into a retail store. And six decades later, her daughter Mariana moved the business off the porch and into the house. “Very little changed in 80 years,” says Mariana, who now runs Croghan’s with her sister, Rhett. “We didn’t have a cash register until 1999.” Now, her daughter Kathleen is poised to join Croghan’s 100-year tradition. “You have to get young blood in the store to revitalize things,” says Mariana.

Hitting the Big 1-0-0

Mariana: Part of reaching this milestone is our family tradition of giving back. My mother taught us the lesson from a very early age. She was always very involved in local museums, the symphony, and held board positions on many charities. As a business owner, when you have the same goals as the community, people trust you.

Rhett: Our grandmother and grandfather used to close the store at lunch for “2 o’clock dinner,” a Charleston tradition. They’d take whoever was in the store—customers, employees, or friends—and bring them to their home for a meal that my grandmother cooked. This was the start of building relationships with people, generation after generation. But as much as we enjoy having 1,600 friends on Facebook, we can’t serve them all dinner.

Kathleen: We welcome customers into our family by taking an interest in their lives. We also buy jewelry with the customers’ tastes in mind, be it estate or antique jewelry from special sales or new collections from top designers sourced at major trade shows.

Giving My All

Mariana: When we expanded from the side porch to the entire house in 1999, it took us from a working space of roughly 500 square feet to 2,500. Eventually we computerized the business with inventory control, got the building up to code with architectural historical preservation funds from the city, and joined the 20th century almost overnight.

Rhett: When I got married I moved to Greenville, S.C., and opened a Croghan’s there, and kept it open for 10 years. When things changed in my personal life, I moved back to Charleston.… Even in a market nearly 180 miles from Charleston, people knew and trusted the Croghan’s name.

Kathleen: I’ve got a degree in marketing. I’m currently interning in New York to bring a jewelry marketing and product management system to our store.

Bicentennial Aspirations

Mariana: Staying in business another three to four generations means staying the course—mainly, being very involved in our community.

Rhett: I see the Internet as being crucial. We blog, have a Facebook page, and all use Twitter more. Although we all have mixed emotions about e-­commerce, I sense it is an eventuality.

Kathleen: We’re working on a marketing campaign to better brand the business. We don’t even have a store logo—so that’s in the works.

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