A jewel of a business: Knight’s Fine Jewelry nixes store closing

Beverly Knight in her Camden jewelry store at at 240 E. Camden Wyoming Ave. The thought of closing her store turned out to be a little too much, at least for now. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — The date, Dec. 24, was looming larger and larger on Beverly Knight’s calendar and in her mind.

Christmas Eve had marked the day that, for the first time in 33 years, Knight’s Fine Jewelry in Camden would not be opening its doors and Mrs. Knight would be enjoying her first day of retired life.

Well, the travel with her husband will have to wait a little bit longer as Mrs. Knight announced that her business at 240 E. Camden Wyoming Ave. will remain open. The thought of closing her store turned out to be a little too much, at least for now.

“We were going to close. We had one of the girls leave, I want to retire, and it seemed like we wouldn’t be able to move forward,” Mrs. Knight said. “With that revelation, a couple of family members got involved in negotiations and the future looks pretty promising, so I’m excited about it. Plans have changed.

“What I struggled with really was trying to figure out how to let the community know, because we have a huge following. We’ve been in business for 33 years, moving into this location (in Camden), and staying true to ourselves and to our customers, offering the best possible quality work that we can and I think it exceeds most that I’ve seen.”

She added, “I’m real proud of that and I’m proud of who we are and where we’re going, but you reach a point in life where you say to yourself, ‘It’s really time for me to slow down and start to enjoy what I’ve spent my life building.’”

However, those cruises to islands and flights to faraway lands will have to wait a little bit longer.

The jewelry business is in Mrs. Knight’s blood.

She opened Knight’s Fine Jewelry on Oct. 13, 1986, at the north corner of the Rodney Village Shopping Center. The daughter of a watchmaker and jeweler, she couldn’t wait to get started in the family business.

“We started out and the first day we opened I didn’t have a budget, I didn’t have any advertising and I was new to the area,” she said. “So we opened up that day and I had a brand-new dress and we were up until three o’clock in the morning getting ready … and nobody came.

“The first day not a single person came, so I was like, ‘What have I done?’”

While that unforgettable day raised doubts for Mrs. Knight, who moved to Delaware in 1983, it turned out that things would pick up after that as Knight’s Fine Jewelry eventually grew into a multi-generational business destination in Camden.

A family affair

Knight’s Fine Jewelry offers new and pre-owned jewelry sales, jewelry repair, custom-made jewelry, machine and hand engraving, appraisals, and watch repair and restoration.

Mrs. Knight said her business takes pride in being able to create timeless pieces of jewelry that can be handed down from generation to generation.

She added that her business sense was given to her by her father, who she worked alongside at his jewelry store in Pennsylvania when she was just a kid.

“It was a magical time for me because I was able to work with him,” she said. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have this jewelry store.”

When her father retired in the mid-1980s, she decided to move the remainder of his inventory to her new store in Delaware.
Then she received a quick reminder of the benefits of being an honest business owner.

Knight’s Fine Jewelry offers new and pre-owned jewelry sales, jewelry repair, custom-made jewelry, machine and hand engraving, appraisals, and watch repair and restoration.

“The first thing I ever sold out of Knight’s Fine Jewelry was a cross,” said Ms. Knight. “I said ‘OK, I’ve been honest until now, this is a sign that I should continue to be honest.’ And I always have been.”

Cheryl Fendt, Mrs. Knight’s daughter, continued the family tradition. She was introduced into the jewelry industry at a very young age and is now an accredited jewelry professional alongside her mother.

“We started in Rodney Village and it was downstairs, we lived upstairs, so we came home from school and [mom] was there every day to help us with homework and things,” Mrs. Fendt said. “But we still got to see the interaction of what the business was all about.”

It gave her a chance to meet many different members of the community and also helped her realize that the family business could offer many different things that a large box store could not.

The biggest thing was personal service and sometimes going above and beyond the call.

She remembers once at Christmas when there was a lady whose mother had her wedding ring getting worked on and her father was gravely ill in the hospital and did not want to pass until he was able to see that ring back on his wife’s finger.

“We basically had to redo this ring,” Ms. Fendt recalled. “So he was on his death bed and they called and were like ‘Is it ready?’ and we told them ‘We’ve got a little ways to go.’ She said, ‘I don’t think he’s going to make it.’

“So my mom drove to our jeweler an hour-plus away, picked up the ring finished — because we called her ahead of time and said ‘Whatever you’ve got to do, it’s got to be done’ — and she delivered that ring to Christiana Hospital.”

Thanks to Mrs. Knight’s dedication to her customers and business, that man did see that ring return to his wife’s finger before he passed away about an hour later.

That’s the kind of service that Mrs. Knight has come to pride herself on, though she had some doubts about her role 22 years ago after her father passed away in September 1997.

“At that time it was really scary for me, but I’ve been the kind of person my whole life that when somebody tells me I can’t … well, then watch me,” she said.

All about honesty … and loyal customers

There are a lot of complexities to owning a jewelry business and a couple of those are hiring employees that are loyal and she can trust. Another is finding a way to compete against the larger chain jewelry stores.

Over the years she found a way to not only compete, but to thrive.

“It’s family and it’s hard to just hire somebody, anybody to come in and work in your jewelry store,” said Mrs. Knight. “There’s a trust factor that has to be really high. It’s one thing to protect what we have, it’s another thing to protect what my customers bring in here. That’s the main concern here.

“We’ve been honest. In the beginning we vowed that we would have a jewelry store where people could come to and they could trust us that we would do our best to keep the jewelry industry clean. When people bring jewelry to a jewelry store they have to know what they brought here in order to know what they’re picking up.”

Mrs. Knight said she has never had a jewelry sales event at her store. She said her prices are such that she has never needed to have one.

“We’re pretty open with customers. We offer a great bottom-line price,” she said. “We don’t have a draw. There’s no store in town that draws people to me. When they come here, they come for one reason and that’s to see us.

“That’s been great. When you think about what it takes for a lot of businesses to survive, they depend on the other stores around them to bring people. That doesn’t happen here, they just come here to see us and that’s a special thing.”

Mrs. Knight turned 66 just last week — she has spent half of her life behind the lens of a jeweler’s loupe.

She said she enjoys going out of her way to satisfy her customers. It’s what makes her business so unique.

“I can offer many things. I can go outside the box,” she said. “We take on challenges that other jewelry stores won’t.”

While she is dedicated to keeping the jewelry store operating at least until next July, there remains that longing to explore retirement and travel with her husband.

“My husband and I want to travel a little bit and we’re going to want some freedom and I know everybody appreciates that, except that I don’t know that I could ever really leave the jewelry industry,” Mrs. Knight said. “My father was a watchmaker, so I was born into this and it’s been a huge part of my life.”

As for now, the future remains a little cloudy as she is torn in two different directions.

“I’m going to try to stay on with them at least until next July when we break for our (summer) break,” said Mrs. Knight. “There’s not really enough time to do what we have to do, even if we wanted to shut down on December 24th.

“We want to make a transition, so we decided it would be best if we just slowed down, stepped back and give ourselves a little bit more time so that we don’t have to shut the store down and so that we don’t come to a point where we don’t have a choice.

“By next summer I should be able to back away in a bigger way and that’s exciting for me. But for now, I enjoy coming here, I love my customers, I love the jewelry, I love the work that we do, I love creating. It’s a beautiful thing.”

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