Often it can be intimidating for shoppers to walk into a jewelry store because of the exclusive atmosphere or standoffish employees. This is not the case at local Evansville jewelry store, Camelot Jewelers. When you shop at Camelot, you are entering an inclusive setting where you are welcomed and well taken care of by founder and owner Rodney Williams and the other helpful staff.
Rodney opened Camelot Jewelers in 1986, and today, his daughter Natalie Lewis helps him operate this thriving shop. We spoke with Natalie to learn more about their love of jewelry, the customer service they provide, and how much they care about the Evansville community.
What is the origin story of Camelot Jewelers?
“My father Rodney was a traveling repairman. He would fix jewelry for other stores, and over time he gained such a following that he ended up opening his own location where the jewelry came to him to be fixed. The building was large enough where he thought, well I might as well open up a showroom here. From there we started selling jewelry as well as repairing it.
Since Rodney spent so much time doing repairs for others, we have a really great relationship with stores all around the Tri-State area. A lot of times different jewelry store environments can be kind of hostile, but we like to foster more inclusive environment. Customer service has always been at our core. We pride ourselves in going above and beyond to meet the customer’s needs. With having our own in-store repairs we’re able to have a quick turnaround time. Most of our repairs can be done the same day, which a lot of people enjoy. And, all of the jewelry we have in-store is hand-selected. Our jewelry isn’t something you’ll see ten other people wearing out and about.”
Did you always plan to join your father’s business?
“I’ve always been a part of the family business, and I’ve always seen myself helping with the store. I wasn’t sure quite what that would entail specifically, but last year I finished my graduate gemologist degree through the GIA (Gemological Institute of America), which is the most prestigious credential you can have in the jewelry industry. Rodney has that degree as well. I would say after I graduated with my masters, I knew this was the route I wanted to go.
The last two years we’ve been in transition where my dad is stepping back a little bit, and I’ll be stepping forward more. I’ve been here my whole life but we’re switching roles a bit due to his health and a few different reasons.”
What do you love about jewelry and gemstones?
“It’s funny you ask that because I have always been very involved in non-profit organizations. I was on the board for Habitat for Humanity and similar organizations. So, I remember having this conversation with my dad where I expressed that I wasn’t sure that jewelry was something I wanted to do. I didn’t know if jewelry fit in with my desire to help others.
My dad talked me through it, and told me that people have been wearing jewelry longer than they’ve been wearing clothes. It’s a medium of expressing yourself, it’s a medium of communication, and jewelry is 90 percent emotional because it can express love and sympathy. So, working in the jewelry industry definitely fits my desire to help others because the root of it is helping people with that means of communication and expression.”
Have there been any special milestones for Camelot Jewelers?
“We just celebrated 32 years of business, so that’s been really exciting for us. Also, both my dad and I getting our gemologists degree is a highlight. It can be hard to explain the importance of this degree if you’re not in this industry, but basically, a couple thousand people will try to get this degree through GIA, and less than 100 will pass. It’s a very rigorous course and that in itself is a huge accomplishment. Milestones like that are definitely a highlight and something we continuously strive for.”
Have any moments with your customers stood out to you?
“Jewelry purchases are usually emotional. It’s not the same as going out and buying a couch. Jewelry is something people wear everyday and something that usually has a sentimental meaning. We had a lady come in yesterday and tell us how twenty years ago she had some special family rings melted down into a pendant. She brought in the pendant to have it cleaned, and she was telling us all about its significance. It’s really something to see people able to preserve family heirlooms and hear their stories. This happens all the time at our store.
Another moment that stands out to me is a time that a lady came to our shop to help her brother pick out an engagement ring. I found out that this lady actually works at a chain jewelry store, so I was startled because I would’ve expected her to try and sell him a ring from her store. But, she told us that she couldn’t get the quality at the price we have at Camelot Jewelers. It was a great testimony because, of course, we always tell people about our great quality and prices, but to have someone from a chain jewelry store saying that was amazing.”
On that topic, can you talk more about that benefit people get when they shop with you as a local store as opposed to the chain jewelers?
“A lot of it goes back to the customer service. We have a very quick turnaround time and when you purchase a ring from us, we take care of it, you get an appraisal from a graduate gemologist, we size it for free, and if you ever have a problem you are able to talk to the person who actually sold it to you. We’re very down-to-earth local people, and we love to help people.
We’re also very big advocates of Evansville. It’s such a great place to live, and we’re doing so many new and exciting things in our community. Evansville is really expanding, and people are excited to be apart of this community – ourselves included. Also, Evansville has a great group of local jewelry stores. I would say by far in our industry people shop more locally than with the chain stores and that’s always great. It keeps the heart of our community going.”
How else are you involved in the local community?
“In the past we created a team for Race For the Cure Evansville. This winter we’ll be raising money for Chemo Buddies in Evansville which is near and dear to our heart. Any non-profits that we’ll partner with – like the police department and other local organizations– and any way we can give back, we’re so happy to do. Being able to give back is very dear to us.”
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