Sumter businessman finds gem in his work

BY BRUCE MILLS bruce@theitem.com
Posted 9/11/18

John Copeland said he has always been a businessman and found his niche with jewelry almost four decades ago.

Copeland, owner/operator of Jewelry Wholesale, started his Sumter jewelry store in 1980 in a small shop on Broad Street. The business …

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Sumter businessman finds gem in his work

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John Copeland said he has always been a businessman and found his niche with jewelry almost four decades ago.

Copeland, owner/operator of Jewelry Wholesale, started his Sumter jewelry store in 1980 in a small shop on Broad Street. The business and Copeland are still going strong today.

Copeland celebrated his 80th birthday on Friday and sat down that day to discuss his business and how it has continued to be successful 38 years later.

He said the Add-a-Bead craze of the 1970s and '80s "got his foot in the door in the jewelry business."

Copeland said he could buy the 14-karat gold beads and sell them for $1.29 each. That was the same price someone could buy them for in Columbia, but another Sumter jeweler sold them for $3.99, he said.

"People in Columbia were selling them for $1.29 each, and Sumter they were charging $3.99 each," Copeland said. "I sold probably a million of those beads."

After two years at 1091 Broad St. (the current Sonic Drive-In location), Copeland bought land basically around the corner in 1982 and built a larger, 3,000-square-foot store at 41 Wesmark Blvd.

In 1998, he added on another 3,000 square feet to the facility.

Copeland said Jewelry Wholesale still has one of the largest selections of jewelry in Sumter and more jewelry inventory than any other jeweler in town.

Having "happy customers" has always been one of his core business philosophies, Copeland said.

"Actually, I feel like buying jewelry should be a happy occasion," Copeland said. "I feel that everybody who walks out should be happy with their purchase."

"Happy customers" translates to more word-of-mouth advertising, which Copeland said is the best kind.

He said he has also always tried to sell at multiple price points, too, "to have something for everybody."

"Sometimes, what people think might be a small purchase is really a big purchase to others," Copeland said. "You have to look at it that way, too, in business."

He said he has always enjoyed jewelry for its beauty and uniqueness. Diamonds are his favorite, he said, and he also likes gold.

A lifelong Sumter resident, Copeland said he loves Sumter and credits the people for his business success.

The store has eight employees and is open six days a week, Monday through Saturday.

His daughter, Suzzane Horton, has been with the family business all 38 years, starting at the age of 17. She is the store manager now. His son, Will Copeland, is assistant store manager with his cousin Johnny Osteen.

Copeland still comes in and works full days on Fridays and Saturdays, the store's busiest days. Every other day, he said, he works on his computer at home because the store also sells items on the internet.

His health is still good, he said. He still rides a stationary bike and lifts weights seven days a week, eats healthy and "takes a handful of vitamins each day."

Copeland said he has no intention of retiring anytime soon and wants to keep going as long as he can.

"I still feel needed, so I still come in," Copeland said. "I feel I have something to give to the store still. And nobody's pushed me out the door."