Valdosta Daily Times

November 13, 2013

Jeweler finds security in Valdosta

Stuart Taylor
The Valdosta Daily Times

NASHVILLE — For Michael Anderson, his work at The Valdosta Vault is part of a lifelong desire.

“Business is what I always wanted to do,” said Anderson, Valdosta Vault general manager.

It's a desire that comes partly from his family, from an aunt and uncle, Donna and Leonard. They owned Chatham Grocery Store for 37 years, downtown Chicago's longest running grocery store before retiring. Their small-business, locally owned ethos is something that Anderson has continued since the Vault opened last November.

“We wanted a locally owned jewelry store in the mall.”

For Susan Nebel, it was a mix of things. Having finished a master's degree in sociology, Nebel considered earning her doctorate, but with her first child on the way, she didn't relish the idea of jumping into doctorate work. Instead, she became the Vault's sales manager, a position that allows her to put her degree to work.

“Watching interactions between people is a good learning experience,” said Nebel. “And I like to make people happy.”

“You get to see people at their happiest point,” said Anderson. “Getting to interact with happy people is definitely a perk.”

And for jeweler Jesse Dean, his work with The Valdosta Vault started decades ago with glass and mirrors. Working for a glass company, he was installing mirrors for a store called Echols Jewelry when it offered him a part-time job. He declined, but quickly changed his mind when he learned he would be able to design and create jewelry. It was something that appealed to the artist in him.

“Painting, sculpting, decorating cakes,” said Dean. “I've worked with a lot of mediums, but I've always been an artist.”

After opening last November, the team at Valdosta Vault has worked to establish its place in the community.

“With all three of our backgrounds, it worked perfectly,” said Anderson.

Between Nebel's background in sociology, Anderson's work in business and marketing and Dean's years of experience in jewelry design, they can find a solution to almost any problem that arises.

“We opened right before Black Friday, right before Christmas, right before Valentine's Day,” said Anderson. “We really got to know our customers. Valdosta people are not like other people. They come in and support you.”

Nebel, Anderson and Dean all attribute the Vault's first-year success to their staff, to the sense of community that exists between everyone at the store.

“I think it's the group that is here,” said Dean. “It's just a wonderful collaboration.”

Social media has played a large role as well, letting the business communicate with its customers and learn what types of jewelry and what designers they're interested in seeing.

They've added several designers throughout the year: Alex & Ani, Lauren G. Adams, Lafonn. It's part of an effort to offer more options in-house for all price points, from $28 on up.

“We've found out our clientele is more fashion forward, so we've added more,” said Nebel.

To celebrate the first anniversary, the Vault will hold a weekend of discounts, prizes and giveaways for the weekend of Nov 22-24. The centerpiece of the weekend is the “Unlock the Vault” scavenger hunt, which sees 75 teams searching throughout the mall for QR codes.

Along with the anniversary celebration, the Vault is trying new things this holiday season, offering corporate gift packages to businesses that want to surprise their employees.

The Vault also holding on to old things, choosing to stay closed on Thanksgiving so the staff can enjoy some time with their families before facing the busy weeks leading to Christmas.

“I have an important family ritual to keep up,” said Anderson. “Eat and sleep.”

As for the future, they'd like to see Valdosta Vault grow, possibly opening up Vaults in other towns: The Tallahassee Vault, The Atlanta Vault. But for today, they're focused on the holiday season in front of them.

“I love where we're at,” said Anderson. “With the big acceptance we got last year from the community, we're excited for the next year.”