When Jimmy Ray Smith’s father opened a jewelry store from his Decatur home 40 years ago, his business wasn’t the only game in town.
Smith, a high school sophomore when Jimmy Smith Jewelers opened, later assumed ownership of the business and learned to welcome competition as new jewelers relocated to Decatur.
Since August, Jamie Hood Jewelers of Muscle Shoals and Hobbs Jewelers of Athens have moved to shopping centers on Beltline Road Southwest, introducing new competition to the Decatur market.
Smith said he’s not concerned the new jewelry stores will affect his sales, which dropped slightly but have remained steady since the economic downturn in 2008.
“I’ve always told my customers that I want them to shop around,” he said. “Competition is good, as long as it’s fair competition.”
Jamie Hood expanded his Muscle Shoals jewelry business to the former Blockbuster building at 1690-A Beltline Road S.W. in August after purchasing the building in 2009.
Hood, who leases part of the building to Alacare Home Health, decided in February to open a second store in Decatur.
“We have a long-term lease with Alacare, which saved our spot for when there was a better economy and gave us time to train personnel and get to a point where we felt good about doing it,” Hood said.
Hood was employed with a Moulton jewelry store for 19 years before opening his own store in Muscle Shoals 13 years ago. He operates a 1,500-square-foot showroom with a full-service repair shop, and employs six at the Decatur store. “Competition is good for consumers — it’s good for us because it makes us better,” he said. “We’re always looking to improve and have better training and better technology.”
Steve Hobbs, owner of Hobbs Jewelers in Athens, will open a 4,200-square-foot jewelry store today in the Publix Shopping Center near Kyoto Japanese Steakhouse.
Hobbs, who operates stores in Athens, Huntsville and Ardmore, Tenn., said it cost $2 million in new inventory and renovations to locate to Decatur.
Hobbs plans to hire four more workers for the Decatur store in preparation for the holiday season.
“The market looked like it was ready for Decatur,” he said. “Decatur is big enough and it was time they needed another fine jewelry store.”
Crystal Brown, business development director for the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber didn’t recruit the two new jewelry businesses.
“They’ve obviously done their homework and have seen there’s more expendable income in the community,” she said.
Smith said his biggest competition in the last 40 years was when Decatur Mall opened in the early 1970s and recruited up to five new jewelers to the facility within a year.
Competition from Wal-Mart and Kmart, which sell and repair jewelry, also has impacted family-owned jewelry stores such as Smith’s.
“Competition can help you a lot of the time,” he said. “If we don’t do what we’re supposed to and work hard and give the customers 110 percent, it’s not going to help us and we won’t do good.”
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