BRATTLEBORO -- Evan James remembers when he realized that he wanted to open a retail jewelry store near where he grew up in Hinsdale, N.H. It was about 27 years ago when he was going to graduate school at the University of Hartford and was working as a sales representative for a family member who was in the jewelry business.
James says he remembers the "charge" he got when he was able to select a design and then pass it on to a buyer, knowing that piece of jewelry was chosen to make a lasting impression in someone else's life.
James is celebrating 25 years in his Main Street shop, Evan James Limited Diamond Jewelers and Goldsmiths, this year, and he says he still gets that rush every time someone walks into his store and leaves with a piece of jewelry that he knows he helped get into their hands.
"For me, when someone leaves here with something special that is gift wrapped it validates that I did my job," James said. "I have a passion for this and when someone else agrees with a decision I made it is awesome. It's still fun."
Like every small business owner it was not easy for James at first.
Seven banks turned down his request for a start-up loan and he finally was able to open his shop at the corner of Main and Flat streets on Oct. 27, 1987, just five days after a major correction on Wall Street that sunk the country into a recession.
But he said from the start that he knew he could offer something different than what the other jewelry stores in town were offering.
And when Spiro Latchis agreed to rent him the highly visible storefront on the corner of Main and Flat, beneath the historic awning of the Latchis Theater, James figured he was going to be in it for the long haul.
"I thought I could do a better job and the more sales we did, the more I became convinced that I was right." James said. "Twenty-five years in any retail business, and in the same location, is pretty amazing."
He says the business has changed in the quarter-of-a-century he has been in business.
The Internet allows him to reach more customers and he says online sales now account for about 20 percent of his sales.
Facebook and other social media help his customers comment on the jewelry and communicate their positive experiences with the company.
His physical space has about doubled since when he moved in and changes in the economy force him to continually consider what he offers and where his market is.
Having a single store, and maintaining close ties with his customers, James said, gives him an edge on larger, chain stores that can not make quick decisions.
He also says that from the start he has made it a priority to help educate his customers.
He says chain stores in the mall might have jewelry that looks similar, but spend 10 minutes with him, looking more closely at the jewelry, and James will convince you that he is offering a higher quality item.
It's that same sense of satisfaction in working with his customers, he says, that convinced him to go into retailing almost three decades ago, and which help him to continue to this day.
"When you have a small business in a small town you have to do a good job. You have to look out for your customers," James said. "It's hard to believe it's been 25 years. When you are busy you lose track of time."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.