Get sparkly jewels and shiny hair at this Tennessee salon
Bridal bands and blow-dryers may seem like strange bedfellows, but Teresa Kaczmarek has been operating The Upper Level Salon and Fine Jewelry—a joint hair salon and fine jewelry boutique in Collierville, Tenn.—since 2002. “I’d always dreamed of being a hairdresser, and I’ve loved jewelry all my life,” says the 57-year-old proprietor. Before tackling either career, she spent 16 years working for IBM, where a jewelry-savvy sales rep taught her “all about diamonds and jewelry.” Kaczmarek started selling jewelry, piece by piece, while at the tech company, and when her job was moved to Atlanta, she decided to stay in Tennessee to attend beauty school. But her passion for gems never dulled. “I carried my little black bag full of fine jewelry to every salon I worked in,” she recalls. “I was always buying and selling and eventually went into business for myself.” The relationship between haircuts and diamonds, she asserts, is actually more symbiotic than one might guess. “Our clients come in regularly, so they get to visit the jewelry they love.”
Why did you think a salon/jewelry store would work?
Women love jewelry and women get their hair done. A girlfriend of mine and I put the concept together and it has worked awesomely. Women can get their hair done and shop for jewelry. They can do layaway and visit their pieces every time they come in. I love beautiful things, and I love for people to have beautiful things. My place is so inviting; it doesn’t make you feel fearful because there’s a salon there.
How does the layout work?
It’s about 1,800 square feet and the layout is completely open. You can see everything when you walk in the door. But jewelry and gift items are on one side, and the salon is on the other side. There are eight salon chairs and they’re in a unit-type [cluster]. I have two salespeople on the jewelry side that are pretty much full time. We have one receptionist who greets every single person who comes in, whether they’re coming to the salon or are there for jewelry. I love my seating area because it’s on the jewelry side. While people are waiting to get their hair done, they’re looking at jewelry.
How do you balance the day-to-day duties of both types of businesses?
I still stand behind a [hairdressing] chair two days a week. I can cut your hair, put spools in it, and get behind the jewelry counter while you’re waiting for your hair to process. All my clients know that I’m moving back-and-forth and they don’t care—they like to know they’re with the owner of the shop. I’ve sold more diamonds from my chair than you can imagine.
What are the boutique’s biggest sellers?
It’s mostly fine jewelry—with a lot of sterling silver. And we also have things like leather and pearls. I use my catalogs and we order initial and monogrammed jewelry for people who want it. We do a little of the costume stuff, but I like to stay with the finer things. I’m not a “brand” person. I handpick everything we have. Clients like it because I have different things. I don’t want 10 of one thing. If someone likes a wedding set someone else has bought, I can get something similar, but I typically won’t buy the same thing twice. I don’t want Cindy and Mary and Amy to have on the same thing. Also, I don’t triple-key things—my prices are good. I tell people, “Go down the street and shop and you’ll be back when you see how reasonable we are.”
So what’s your secret to success?
You can advertise all you want. But a kind word about your business from a client to someone else is what will bring people in. It’s the consideration and smiles we give—that’s how my business has grown. My rule is that you need to speak to every client who comes in. The stylists all love jewelry, too, and they go back-and-forth between the two sides and are excited about it. You can’t beat what we have going.