In 1973 Lisa, a young English teacher out for adventure, took a faculty position at a boarding school in Istanbul, Turkey. Little did she know that during her first few months there one of her students would introduce her to her future husband, jewelry designer Reggie Akdogan, at the time a shop manager in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar.
For Lisa it was love at first sight. Two years later the newly married couple moved back to the US and visited Williamsburg, Virginia where a delightful shopping center, The Village Shops at Kingsmill, had just opened. It only took a few weeks for the Akdogans to decide Williamsburg was where they wanted to live and open their first fine jewelry store.
Today Lisa still runs The Village Jewelers in The Village Shops at Kingsmill (www.thevillagejewelers.com) along with a staff of five including Jean Hornsby, aunt to top musician Bruce Hornsby, also a Williamsburg resident. Lisa loves the special city. “I can’t imagine a more wonderful place to have a business,” she said. “The town offers the perfect combination of loyal local clientele, who strongly believe in supporting local businesses, and tourists from around the world.”
Lisa’s husband Reggie manages high-end Precious Gem in downtown Williamsburg, featuring fabulous one-of-a-kind pieces. The two stores enjoy a friendly rivalry, spurring the competitive spirit.
Williamsburg’s historic status and proximity to Washington DC generate a tourist mecca. Tourists who come often become annual visitors because of their great first visit. In addition, Kingsmill’s exclusive gated convention center hosts prestigious conferences including those for the US Senate.
“Among our customers have been Supreme Court justices and professional golfers,” Lisa explains. We even did a quick repair of a free-form gold brooch for Hillary Clinton when she was visiting for a government conference. Ruth Bader Ginsberg came in and bought inlaid black onyx and 18 karat gold earrings. She was seeking an artisan piece, informing us she likes to pick up pieces when she travels. We’ve frequently since then seen pictures of her wearing the piece.”
The Village Jewelers features designer jewelry, including Mia Katrin for Jewel Couture LLC. “We’ve built our reputation on designers,” Lisa shares. “We take pride in featuring the unique, the unusual. We also like to build the relationship between the customer and the designer by having Trunk Shows.
“Customers love to meet the designer. They want the story behind the pieces. It makes the experience personal.
“We’ve recently seen the biggest response to briolettes. Our rainbow sapphire line and sterling silver enamel pieces have also done very well. Our special order and custom work pieces have doubled over the past four years. In the recent economy our ‘trade in, trade up’ program and estate jewelry have been great sales generators.
“This year’s better than last. There’s more optimism.” The bottom line? “The key for The Village Jewelers’ success is service, service, service. Customers are greeted with a welcoming smile. They leave feeling not only that they bought a special piece, but they’ve had a great time, an enjoyable and memorable experience.”
Jeanette Ammons, manager since 1999, echoes, “All our employees strive for friendship. We want our clients to feel like family.” It’s today’s twist on time-honored values.