Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
For more than nine decades, the Bullock family has been surrounded with gold, silver, diamonds and other precious metals and gems, but, according to Kyle Bullock, what has kept Bullock’s Jewelry in business through wars, economic crises, pandemics and other difficult times is that the family knows what to value most, the relationships they have with customers and people in the community.
“We say our job is to help people create cherished memories and to build relationships,” Bullock said. “And we happen to sell jewelry doing that.”
The business is celebrating its 95th anniversary, making it one of the few locally owned ongoing businesses in the city to remain in the same family for so many years. While the exact date that the business started isn’t known, the family is pretty certain that it was September or October 1926.
Obviously, many wise business decisions and investments have been made along the way, but Kyle, the fourth generation to run the business — which he does with his father, Don — turns the emphasis back to that core principle: building strong relationships.
“The product is important, but the people are always more important,” he said.
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He recalled that he recently spoke with a customer for about 30 minutes, with only a few of those minutes concerning jewelry. The rest of the time, Bullock said, they talked about the customer’s well-being and business.
“We are an emotional business and caring matters,” he said. “I really do loving sitting with people and caring about that person. Jewelry is just a story. It is capturing an emotion in that moment that becomes a part of their life, and you have to care about that life.”
Family businesses make up a large part of the global economy, according to the 10th Family Business Survey produced in 2021 by the consulting firm PwC, formerly known as Price Waterhouse Coopers. Family businesses contribute about half of the world’s gross domestic product and provide two-thirds of its jobs. In the survey taken in 2020, many were experiencing sales growth at a time when other businesses were contracting, with the consulting firm indicating that high consumer trust in family businesses is one of their major advantages.
For the Bullocks, Kyle knows for sure that he and his father will lead the business in coming years, overseeing new jewelry sales, custom jewelry design coordination, the purchase of scrap metals or old jewelry, and appraisals and insurance work. The fifth generation is still too young to be making career decisions, he said.
The legacy of the family business begins with Kyle’s great-grandfather, O.L. Bullock. O.L. Bullock worked for a jewelry department store but decided to open his own store with a $5,000 loan from his wife.
“We always wondered, how did a young man with a 1-year-old kid at home right before the Dust Bowl and Depression borrow from his wife to start a jewelry store in the middle of nowhere? They somehow made it work.”
His father, Don, also showed determination after his dad and Kyle’s grandfather, J. Dixon Bullock, passed away. Only 17 at the time, Don went to school in the morning and ran the business in the afternoon.
“My dad never went to college but learned so much about how to run a business and how to lead people all on his own. I think it is an incredible thing,” Bullock said. “Within the industry they say that you are only as strong as your mentor, and I think I have had the best mentor you could hand-pick.”
The work of his predecessors has given Kyle hope during the difficult times associated with the coronavirus pandemic and the required business closures.
“It felt scary and terrifying and all that, but to know that I had three generations before me survive Dust Bowls, depressions, oil crises, housing crises, world crises, country crises, it made me think, I think I can make it,” he said. “I think we are coming out of it stronger and better than before.”
While the business is doing well financially, he said, the pandemic and all of its pressures caused some shifts and refocusing of purpose, with the owners and the three full-time employees taking more time to work on communication and leadership skills. He said the strength of the team is a strong asset. He said they also feel even greater appreciation for the people who come to their door on North Main Street or that they otherwise encounter.
“We know they have been through a difficult time, too,” he said.
Kyle earned a degree in psychology from Lubbock Christian University and also has taken some graduate school courses in leadership. As much as he feels that relationships are at the core of the business, he also talked about some of the practical ways the business has sought to grow.
He said the business has adapted to changing times, including utilizing online and social media for sales and advertising. But online sales are somewhat limited in his industry. Most people would rather shop for jewelry in person at the store at 215 N. Main St., its location since the 1950s.
In response to social concerns that have escalated in the past five years, the business also sells lower-cost, lab-grown diamonds and strives to ensure that its metal and gem sellers practice ethical labor and mining practices. And, since the pandemic and its disruptions to the supply chain, Bullock’s Jewelry has shifted more of its buying to U.S. companies and places its orders well in advance, including making decisions for Christmas inventory in June.
Staying involved in industry groups also has been important to the business. Bullock’s Jewelry is an active member in the Independent Jewelers Organization and the Retail Jewelers Organization. Kyle also has been a presenter and educator at jewelry industry shows; contributed to InStore, an industry publication; and presented the “Over the Counter” podcast that focuses on the personal stories of people involved in the industry.
Kyle said he also looks for opportunities for training and growth and has become a certified gemological appraiser from the International School of Gemology, which allows him to work with customers and insurance companies on appraisals and jewelry replacement.
The Bullocks also have worked hard to establish significant ties with other community organizations.
Kyle is known to many as an author, media creator, theater performer and director. His own volunteer works include serving as a board member of Way Way Off Broadway, treasurer of the Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corp. Board of Directors and chair of an advisory council for Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell. The business also supports Chaves County CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocates) and its fundraisers, while Don Bullock is a board member for the Assurance Home. Bullock’s Jewelry also has supported MainStreet Roswell, serving as a cosponsor of one of its business workshops, and as a supporter of downtown events.
“We want to be here for a long time,” Bullock said. “One of the ways we think that will happen is to help our community grow and thrive.”
Talking about his great-grandfather and the question of how he managed to make a success of his own store, Bullock said that the “secret” is the community.
“It is not much of a secret,” he said. “We have a fantastic community around us. They’ve been supportive and they’ve shopped local.”
Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.