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Lance White opened his own jewelry store in Cumming when he was only 23 years old, and since then, his business has been through it all — snowstorms, tornados and even protests and marches in the late ‘80s.
Even after all of the hardships, Lance’s Jewelry always found its way back up, and although White was forced to close his doors late in March for the first time in 30 years of business, he has realized that he is going to get through this pandemic, too.
Opening up and getting back to business did not come without a challenge.
“It was really difficult for us,” White said. “This is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had happen to me in 30 years of business.”
White ended up having to close Lance’s Jewelry for about a month, which devastated the business financially. During that time, he had to let all of his employees go, and he started worrying about paying his rent and bills with no income.
“I didn’t know if we were ever going to open back up,” White said. “I thought we might have to go out of business. There are a lot of companies that have gone out of business. I just can’t sit here and pay employees and pay rent and electricity and not have any income coming in.”
When the novel coronavirus first started to have an impact on communities in Georgia, White said that he was away on vacation in Florida, so he did not immediately know what was happening. He said he just saw sales start to plummet. As he got home and started to see other businesses closing and people starting to lose their jobs, he started to worry for his own business.
He began to worry, even after the virus subsided, if customers would still come in looking to buy jewelry.
“Jewelry is not something that you have to buy,” White said. “It’s not a necessity item. It’s not like toilet paper or bread, milk, whatever. You can live without it. So that was one of my concerns once it opened back up was how it was going to be because all of these people had been without work. And they’re going to provide for themselves first by getting groceries and things that they need like that more so than jewelry.
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White opened the store back up in late April, bringing back all of his employees to work to test the water to see if business would start back up again. He started by taking appointments only for about a week before finally fully opening his doors to the public.
Fortunately, customers started coming in, and the store’s reopening was successful. The store had even opened back up in time for Mother’s Day, and White said they actually had more customers in than the previous year. He said because other jewelry stores in the area have not quite opened yet, many flocked to his shop for gifts this year.
Since people have been stuck at home spring cleaning and getting housework done as well, White said that he has seen a lot of customers coming in to have some of their old jewelry customized or altered. The store is also still buying gold and old jewelry from customers for cash for those finding old jewelry that they no longer want.
White said that now is also the perfect time to buy jewelry simply because many stores that had to close for a period of time have an excess of extra inventory that they had originally planned to sell before, so now jewelry prices are lower and more affordable.
With more customers starting to come back in, however, they will notice a few changes.
Since opening again, Lance’s Jewelry has reduced its hours, and are now open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., to make up for extra time spent cleaning. Only two customers or families are coming into the store at a time, following social distancing quidelines.
Meanwhile, staff is also constantly sanitizing and cleaning anything customers may have touched while they were in the store, especially jewelry, which is now set aside after a customer has touched or tried a piece on so that it can be sanitized before it is put back into the display case.
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Despite all the changes, White said they have adjusted well to their new routine, mostly because customers have been helping out in making sure they are wearing masks and sanitizing when they walk in.
Staff at the store said that they are still getting used to people walking into the store with masks on, though — usually a bad sign in a jewelry store with high-value merchandise, but now a commonplace solution to prevent the spread of the virus.
Besides the masks, White said that both customers and staff have adjusted well to all the changes.
“I think we’re almost at the new norm,” White said. “We’re into the rhythm of cleaning the way that we clean. It’s just become second nature to us now, and we’re making sure that it’s done. And I think customers feel comfortable coming into the store the way that we have it set up.”
Looking ahead, White said that he might lengthen the store’s hours again, but for now, he is just glad that they have found a way to adjust to this crisis that works for them.
“I think this is what we’re going to stick with for a while,” White said.
For more information visit www.lancesjewelry.com.