Skatell’s Jewelers branched out over the years like a family tree as four siblings followed their parents’ lead, owning their own stores throughout the Carolinas.
Beth Owens owns the Skatell's store in Spartanburg, S.C. Her brother Tony and sisters Debbie Chelsted and Cindy Dacus have all owned stores. Debbie and Cindy sold their store in Greenville, S.C. a year ago.
“My sisters said they were ready to close,” Beth says. “Business was not bad, but we’ve all been in the jewelry business so many years, and they were just done. I’m the baby, and I’m not done! I hope to be doing this 10 more years. I am the only family member ‘Skatell’ left in the business now.”
Spouses were drawn into the business as well. “When they married into our family, they had a permanent job - whether they wanted it or not,” Beth laughs.
All of the family stores are called Skatell’s. “My grandparents came from Italy through Ellis Island with the name Scataglia,” Beth says. “My grandfather spoke no English, and he shortened the name to Skatell. We started using the phrase ‘Skatell her you love her’ back in the ’90s and we got such a great response from our customers, all of the Skatell’s use this phrase now. We love it when our customers come in and say, ‘He skatelled me he loves me!’ We feel this really plays on the emotion of why people give jewelry in the first place!”
The siblings’ parents, Tony and Helen Skatell, started the family business in 1964 with one store in Greenville. “Our dad passed away four years ago, and our mom died last year,” Beth says. “She was 84 years old and showed up at the store every day. She would enter the merchandise and open the mail, right up until the end. She was like the store’s ambassador - everybody loved our mom! You couldn’t help but love her. She enjoyed getting up, getting dressed; it gave her a purpose to come to the store every day. I might end up being just like her, coming to the store with my cane or walker!
“I worked in the store when I was a little girl,” Beth says. “Dad put me on the engraving machine, and my sister and I would engrave short messages to one another on a disk. This is how we learned the art of engraving. We would come to the store almost every Saturday when we were little, and this is how we all fell in love with the business.”
All of the Skatells worked under one roof together, in Greenville, for many years. “We survived - we didn’t kill each other!” Beth says. “We really share so many ideas with each other; we use the same vendors, and we talk to each other a lot. We still have that family connection of sharing ideas, who to buy from. So many customers think we’re a chain because of that, and that’s fine. But we still want to keep that family-owned feel.”
Beth and her husband, Doug Owens, built their freestanding, 3,000-square-foot store in Spartanburg in 1996. They had met in Spartanburg, where they both went to college, and thought it was a great market, just a half hour northeast of Beth’s parents’ store in Greenville.
Doug was diagnosed with frontal temporal dementia in 2012 and now is in the advanced stages and living at home with Beth’s support as a caregiver and other help so she can still run the business. “It is extremely hard juggling both on your own,” Beth says. “I used to rely on him so much, and it was nice to have a partner to bounce ideas off. Now I have to rely on my great sales staff for many things, and as a team, we all have brought the business back strong again to what it used to be years ago.
“During 2009 through 2013, the only way we stayed in business was by buying gold,” Beth says. “It paid the bills and helped us survive. Business started coming back a little in 2015, then in 2017 we saw a real increase. We’ve seen a steady increase this year, as well.” Beth centers the business on bridal and custom, and her marketing encompasses radio, billboards and social media.
Customer service is at the heart of the store’s success, Beth says. “We have training every morning, a 10-minute meeting with my workers. I tell them customers may forget the price of something, but they’re not going to forget how you made them feel. We have over 230 Google reviews and counting, and a five star! If you give people wonderful customer service and treat them like family, they remember it. That’s made us continue to be strong.
“We’re like a family here, and I just love my staff! We all have over 100 years of experience combined in this industry. They all pull together to help a client, and it shows with the many repeats we have. We are very blessed!”
Beth and Doug have three children, but Beth doubts they’ll carry on the family business. “We talked so much about the business when they were growing up, they said, ‘We don’t want to hear about it anymore!’”
Beth, however, remains gung-ho with continuing her store’s survival in Spartanburg for many years and may very well be following her mother’s tenacious footsteps. “Customers ask us if there will be another store down the road. I would love to come back to Greenville, but now being a caregiver too, I can’t add any more to my plate. We’ll have to see what the future holds. Our name is very recognizable there, and it’s a great market too.”