Cecil’s Fine Jewelry

 

Becky Whelan never imagined some 20 years ago when she was a customer at Cecil’s Fine Jewelry that someday she would be the owner. She had a thriving design business, first in Hot Springs Village in the 1970s and 1980s and then as the head of design for the old Brandon House until the late 1990s. But when the economy started to wane a bit in early 2000, she answered an ad for a part-time position at the very store where she loved to shop. That helped her propel Cecil’s Fine Jewelry to where it is today. As a shopper-turned-store owner, Becky Whelan knows how to treat the customer.

Cecil’s Fine Jewelry originally opened in 1975 and has been in the same Trellis Square shopping center ever since. Located in west Little Rock on Rodney Parham Road, the store offers its clientele a convenient and easily accessible location. Whelan bought the store in 2003.

“We have customers and friends from all over the city and state,” says Whelan. She also offers exclusive jewelry lines that can’t be purchased anywhere else, which is a huge draw for Cecils. Visitors won’t be disappointed. Upon entering the store, Whelan and her staff greet each and every customer with a smile, freshly baked cookies and Jim Dickerson playing the baby grand piano situated in the center of the store.

Both of her daughters have worked in the store in some capacity. Bridget was on staff for about ten years, and Erin is the store manager. Whelan, who says she is very “hands-on,” has an extremely knowledgeable and personable staff. She is available for every customer and is at the store most days (her team insists she take one day off a week, but she is likely there on that day, too).

Now, back to 2003, when she undertook a personal and financial risk to buy the store – why did she do it?

“I decided I wanted to continue Cecil’s great legacy,” says Whelan. “I wanted to run the store the way it was best for our customers… I’m looking for the lifelong customer, whether it’s for a watch battery, a repair or they’re looking for the perfect engagement ring. It’s all about the relationships.”

Whelan says many shoppers are looking for a personal relationship with their jeweler. “They come in, sometimes, just to feel good. Even in times of sorrow, we turn keepsakes into something relevant that people want to wear every day. So, even in the hardest of times, we want to make people’s lives better.”

Cecil’s even has a bit of old-school charm, offering lay-a-way as well as interest-free financing. And don’t think they are going to sell you the highest priced item; they are going to sell you the one that works the best for the client. If you’re a bargain hunter (and who isn’t?), Cecil’s always has two cases with bridal and fashion pieces on sale 50 to 60 percent off, which fly out of the store.

If you’re wondering what pieces every woman needs, Whelan says, “Diamond studs and hoops are always a staple. A nice strand of pearls and a pretty bracelet” are also a great addition to your core jewelry wardrobe. The fun pieces, though they are still fine jewelry, are the ones that are trendy, current and won’t necessarily break the bank. But she stays away from fads when at the jewelry market. She has daughter Erin’s watchful eye to help balance out the generational differences. They just finished a trip to market where Whelan tried on every piece they purchased.

“I see if the piece is comfortable,” she says, “and then I think if this is something one of my customers would enjoy.”

Some shoppers are coming in specifically for special occasions while others come in to visit, say hello and see what is new. Whelan says, “We try to reach out to everyone no matter what they need. We are very low-key. It’s not all about the sale but the customer.”

Becky Whelan says she’ll never retire. She loves helping people enjoy the jewelry experience. “I do this because I love it. This is what I really want to do the rest of my life.”

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