Charles Phillips, owner, operator and craftsman at Gold Lady Jewelers, came to the jewelry business by way of surfboards and bicycles.
Since 1980 when he began the North Kingstown business, Phillips built his jewelry store into a successful enterprise with the addition of an estate collection, the use of fine craftsmen and relocation to a former bank building in the heart of Wickford village. He also runs a gift gallery across the street, Gold Lady Galleria, so few people, he quips, can get through the village “without tripping over me.”
What makes his jewelry business different, he said, is the fact that, “I’m on the premises every day, every hour that this store is open,” he told Providence Business News. “We are hands-on every day. We do our own work with state-of-the-art equipment, including computerized engraving machines and laser-welding machines.”
Two craftsmen, including himself, work at the store to make, repair and restore jewelry. A portion of their work is done anonymously for other stores that Phillips declined to name. Gold Lady, as its name implies, deals only in fine jewelry rather than costume pieces.
“Nothing ever leaves this store,” Phillips said. “Everything is done on the premises and is locked up every night.”
In September 2010, Phillips purchased the former Bank of America building in Wickford center, across the street from his first store. The bank building dates from the 1920s with a larger, more open and airy site than his former location, and the new place came with its own actual bank vault installed in the 1950s, an asset of value to a fine jeweler. Another asset is what Phillips said is the largest single-store parking lot in Wickford.
As is the case with many successful small-business owners, Phillips never went to school to formally study the trade he specializes in, but learned the ins and outs of jewelry work on his own in what he called “the school of hard knocks.” But he took to it right away. “It’s fairly second nature to me,” he said.
Phillips got his start in the business world in a shop in the Apponaug section of Warwick manufacturing surfboards, which he would have shipped to places like Maine and Florida. “I didn’t make any money,” he admitted. “You feast all summer and starve all winter.”