Keenan Harn, Executive Director of the Carolina Jewelers Alliance (CJA), is serious about drawing retailers to the Aug. 25 convention at The Ballantyne in Charlotte, scheduling the event back-to-back with the Southeastern Jewelers Organization (SJO) show and offering some pretty amazing incentives.
“This year’s convention has so much to offer!” says Keenan, co-owner of Loy Harn Jewelers in Mount Pleasant, S.C., near Charleston. “SJO was so kind to let us partner with them this year as our main sponsor. If jewelers are a member of SJO and going to Charlotte, it will be super simple to attend our convention, too.”
Annual membership for the CJA is only $195 and includes two free registrations to the convention. It also includes “being a part of our invaluable network of North Carolina and South Carolina jewelers, receiving regular newsletters and crime alerts, as well as ongoing educational opportunities and resources,” Keenan says.
CJA members will be treated to a big buffet breakfast and lunch for the one-day convention, and SJO will do a cocktail party and dinner that evening to wrap up CJA and kick off its own event that starts the next day.
The CJA convention will be a “full day of education, with several social opportunities intermixed.” Seven seminars will cater to both owners and employees, with topics ranging from bench skills and customer service to profitability and marketing. Keenan hopes to schedule a safety program on hazards in the work environment specific to the jewelry trade such as chemical exposure and back problems.
“For employees, we’re going to offer Customer Service 101 and Bench 101. Jewelers can get free training for their employees.” Nashville retailer and Southern Jewelry News columnist Chuck Koehler will run the Bench 101 and Advanced Bench Programs, and Paul McFadden will run a profitability seminar.
The most exciting segment to Keenan is social media marketing. “We’ll talk about Instagram and Facebook apps. We’ll have the jewelers actually take out their cell phones to walk through the setup. We’ll offer options and suggestions for doing it themselves or hiring it out. We’ll show them how to turn a social media engagement into a customer actually walking through their door and buying jewelry!”
Jaime Huffman, known as the Charleston Blonde, will be a featured guest speaker. “She has a really interesting background and bubbly personality; it will be a fun program,” says Keenan, who plans to bring in two other bloggers from the Carolinas as well. “These will be people who are already engaged in attracting local potential clients, and will give jewelers an idea of who their local influencers are.
“Switching to a one-day event makes it more affordable for jewelers,” Keenan adds. “Each CJA member gets the two free registrations, and we’re doing it in Charlotte, a more central location. In one day, the jewelers can drive in and out and not even have to get a hotel. But if they do, rooms at The Ballantyne this year are $169 a night.” The room block is already almost full, so she advises jewelers to book their hotel reservation through a special link she’ll send to them.
Keenan, who took the helm at CJA in January, says the North Carolina Jewelers Association and the South Carolina Jewelers Association joined together last year to form the Carolina Jewelers Alliance to increase member benefits and philanthropic contributions, while decreasing overall time and effort from working jewelry store owners and employees. “Not much will change, other than both states having a stronger association backing them and a more streamlined experience,” Keenan says.
After two trial years, the board will decide whether the CJA will remain one association or revert to the two entities, but Keenan believes the joint effort will remain. “Neither would be viable on its own; it makes sense to be together.”
Keenan says being Executive Director is a huge honor. Born and raised on Pawley’s Island, she graduated from the College of Charleston with a degree in non-profit management and went on to work for the S.C. Pharmacy Association as the Director of Membership, where she learned how a successful trade association operates and provides valuable benefits to its members. She left the S.C. Pharmacy Association when she met her husband, jewelry store owner Jason Harn, and moved from Columbia to Mount Pleasant to work for him at Loy Harn Jewelers about four years ago.
Jason’s father, Loy Harn, started the family store in 1980, two years before Jason was born. Loy began as an apprentice jeweler at Friedman’s Jewelers in his hometown of Brunswick, Ga., and later became an expert in jewelry repair.
“He moved to Mount Pleasant to work for White’s Jewelers before opening his own storefront on Coleman Boulevard in 1980,” Keenan says. “From there, he had two other Mount Pleasant locations. We have been in our current location, in the Wando Crossing Shopping Center, for almost 30 years.
“My favorite thing to show people who want a tour of the back of the shop is where my husband’s height is marked up the door in that location since he was 11 years old. Loy was locally renowned for his personal customer service, unique custom designs and reliable wholesale trade work. He passed suddenly in 2002, and Jason, then just 20 years old, has run Loy Harn Jewelers since. Through all of the challenges that he faced, Jason has been able to keep the store open and will soon be celebrating their 40th anniversary.”
The store today is a full-service shop offering jewelry repair, custom jewelry design, fine jewelry, ear piercings, and diamond and jewelry appraisals.