Written by Joe Lee
Photos by Divian Connor
For Jamie Parkerson, some things haven’t changed much in three decades. He’s still working in the jewelry business in Starkville’s College Park Shopping Center, just as he was when hired by Barry Mixon at the Jeweler’s Bench in 1986.
But Parkerson and a team of investors from his hometown of Kosciusko opened J. Parkerson Jewelers several weeks ago, hoping – in the short term – to launch with a solid fourth quarter of 2017. And, over the long haul, to seamlessly continue what Parkerson learned from Mixon and practiced with Jeweler’s Bench customers for years.
“I have always treated everyone the same,” said Parkerson, who moved to Starkville a generation ago after graduating from Holmes Community College in Goodman. “I have some that are millionaires and some that don’t have two nickels to rub together. My attitude or performance doesn’t change because of the size of someone’s bank account.”
“I’m a pretty straight shooter, and I’m personable. I think that is very important, and I am afraid that some in the millennial bracket are so consumed with their phones these days that they don’t know how to communicate with people on a personal level. I was asked once if I was a good salesman – to me it’s about making a relationship with the customer and going from there.”
An old Attala County friend, Terry Godfrey, got Parkerson interested at a young age in the jewelry business, especially the repair side. Parkerson credits Mixon, who closed the Jeweler’s Bench in early 2017, with not only teaching the essentials of repair but stressing the importance of good customer service.
“Barry showed me the basics on minor repairs like soldering chains and ring sizing,” Parkerson said. “I was taught to take five more minutes and do it right, other than do a rush job. I really try to live by those standards with jewelry repair – take an extra step to make it look better. There is a great deal of trial and error, and just plain common sense involved in doing repairs, too. Wisdom equals experience.”
Parkerson, who lives with his family in West Point, was considering his next career move as far back as 2011 in preparation for Mixon’s eventual retirement – he knew his mentor wouldn’t run the Jeweler’s Bench forever – and began putting himself through Gemology School in 2007 at the Gemological Institute of America.
“Wish I would have done it sooner,” Parkerson said. “I know it would have been much easier when I was younger. I completed all the coursework through distance education in December 2013 while still working full-time and passed my final exam in March 2014.”
“I did have a pretty good following from my customers at the Jeweler’s Bench. There was a large percentage that only wanted to deal with me – it has been a great feeling from the response I have gotten since opening the door at my new store. It really makes you feel good when someone says, ‘I’ve been waiting on you to open.’”
Technological innovation is something Parkerson has at his disposal that Mixon didn’t a generation ago, and the new College Park addition is making the most of it.
“Probably the thing I am most excited about is our Custom Studio,” Parkerson said. “This is a 42-inch touch screen (on which) the customer can design any piece of jewelry they desire. No other jewelry store in the area offers such a feature. It also has a downloadable app, and from the app the customer can design the piece from home and send it to me to have it custom-made.”
“This is going to be a great asset, especially with millennials. A customer can take any picture found on Instagram, Pinterest or wherever and send it to J. Parkerson Jewelers and we can make it. CAD drawings (computer-aided design) are sent back to the customer for approval – or to make any changes – and we make it once everything is approved.”
Whether the purchase is big or small this holiday-buying season, Parkerson is glad to see every customer. He reminds them – especially his younger ones – that they’re getting hands-on experience and service that can’t be found when purchasing through the internet. And he’s thrilled to be where he is and have the legwork of actually opening his new venture behind him.
“The whole experience, even though it has been tough, has been great so far,” he said. “It’s a whole different outlook when your name is on it.”