The Ladies of Bernard’s
Like the stones in an heirloom piece of precious jewelry, they complement each other; each adding a unique sparkle to the overall design. That’s how the ladies of Bernard’s Jewelers have worked together for some 25+ years. Pam Anderson, Pam Reed and Polly Reed each hold individual talents in jewelry conceptualization, design, creation, repair and appraisal, taught to them by Pam’s great uncle and the store’s founder, Bernard Olliff.
“The store used to be in the back of Bernard’s home on a hill in front of where Lowe’s now stands,” said Anderson. “I was studying Art at Georgia Southern and I would stop by the store to talk to Aunt Pat. While I was hanging around the store, Bernard thought that I should put my Art degree to work designing jewelry.”
That was 29 years ago. “I started on a Saturday, I already had two jobs in Savannah and I was getting married, buying a house and moving. Within a few months Bernard sent me to school to learn diamond grading for appraisals,” Anderson said. “I also took courses through the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) to become a certified gemologist.”
Polly Reed went to work at Bernard’s right after graduating from Southeast Bulloch High School. She’s been with the store for 32 years.
“I applied to work here and within a few months, I knew I wanted to train on the bench for jewelry repair. Bernard trained me first on stone settings and jewelry repair, then he sent me to take classes at the Jewelry Institute of America during the 1980s,” Polly said. “I also took GIA diamond courses to become certified in appraisals and diamond grading.”
Pam Reed started working at Bernard’s in 1993 while a student at Georgia Southern.
“Mrs. Pat trained me,” Pam said. “She taught me to do the buying and how the business was run. I learned some jewelry repair. I have taken courses to be certified in pearls, diamonds and right now I’m taking a course in colored gems, too. But, Mrs. Pat liked for me to do the business side. It really takes all three of us to do everything.”
That’s what Bernard thought, too. All three ladies agreed, “Bernard said that each one brings something to the business and without the others they would fall short.”
He and Pat eventually sold the house and surrounding land from the family farm to Lowe’s. He built a small shopping center adjacent to the original store location. The new Bernard’s store opened in the shopping center and the ladies each watched as the bypass and Applebee’s and other new businesses came to the area. Business grew as traffic grew and the loyal customers always came back.
“Our customers and clients watched us grow,” Pam Reed said.
When his health began to decline four years ago, Bernard began thinking of his legacy. He and Pat had no children of their own, but they thought of the girls that they had trained and brought up through the store as their children.
“Bernard left the store to us,” said Anderson. “I was crying when I came back to the store to tell the other two about it. I told them, ‘You’re going to think I’m crying because I’m disappointed, but I’m not. I’m crying because I’m so happy.’”
There’s another legacy Bernard left them, too.
“He always taught us communication and team work,” said Pam Reed. “He taught us about building relationships with our customers. We become a part of people’s lives.”
“That’s right,” said Anderson. “It’s not about a piece of merchandise that we’re selling, it’s about sharing special moments and creating memories with our customers. Lots of emotion is shared. We get to serve people during the special occasions in their lives. We can meet people’s expectations because we get to know our customers’ tastes and get to know what they want in a quality piece of jewelry.”
“It’s very satisfying to see when a customer brings something old in for repair and when they get it back it doesn’t look like the same piece,” said Polly. “They’ll say, ‘It didn’t look this good when we got it!’”
“It’s the best experience and we want it to be the most pleasant and exciting time for our customers,” said Pam Reed. “We think of our jewelry as wearable with memories attached.”
“People buy jewelry for sentiment,” said Anderson. “They buy for special occasions, commitments, special days…there is always a giver and a receiver. Most people want to pass down those precious pieces.”
That’s why they take such care in selecting each piece of jewelry for the store, never buying in multiples. The ladies specialize in custom work, combining several pieces of older jewelry or stones into a completely new design to hold all those special memories. They’ve even added a new slogan – When the moment really matters. Bernard always had printed on his business cards – The store service built.
Service that was given by a loyal staff.
“We appreciate all our employees and we couldn’t do it without them,” said Pam Reed. “They all do a great job.”
The ladies plan to build on Bernard’s legacy by opening a second store this fall in the Market District between Colonial House of Flowers and Entourage. The new store will have a boutique feel and will have the same quality service and exceptional merchandise for which Bernard’s is known. The expected soft opening date is in September with a grand opening planned for October.
“We’re going to rotate and there will always be a certified gemologist on site at either store,” said Pam Reed.
They’re also building on a legacy of their own. Anderson’s son has worked in the store and Pam Reed’s daughter, Tatum (Who is Polly’s niece. Pam Reed is married to Polly’s younger brother), is learning clock and watch repair and taking a diamond course. The heritage continues.
The next generation of jewelry experts is in training just in time for the 50th anniversary celebration coming in 2020.