When Lucian Lee walked into Hale’s Jewelers on Main Street in downtown Greenville to buy an engagement ring in 1973, he never suspected that his single purchase would lead to a lifelong career.
The young man had recently graduated from college and was looking for a job—a task which suddenly became more urgent as he realized he needed a way to pay for his fiancé’s ring. Turns out, Hale’s was looking for staff, and the store owners offered Lee a job. “My story is, I’m still paying for that engagement ring,” says Hale’s current owner, with a laugh, “and my marriage has been successful for 47 years.”
Today you will find him in Hale’s brand-new setting on Verdae Boulevard, which boasts 50 percent more space than that of its previous location on Haywood Road, along with large windows to let in natural light. “Nothing shows a diamond better than natural sunlight,” Lee declares.
Cases beckon with bling: rings, earrings, necklaces, watches. One corner of the new store is devoted to the first Forevermark boutique in North America, a subsidiary of the De Beers Group, renowned for their rare natural diamonds. Can’t find exactly what you want? Hale’s can customize jewelry to your specifications. Using CAD (computer-aided design)—note the 75-inch computer screen at one end of the showroom—jewelers can create an exquisite one-of-a kind piece. More than 10 percent of Hale’s business is now custom-design work, and that figure is growing.
At the time Lee started working at Hale’s, the store was owned by two brothers, Heyward and Hewlett Sullivan Jr., whose father had purchased the business from its founding family in 1923. Hale’s beginnings reach back to 1887, when William Randolph Hale took over his grandfather’s jewelry and engraving shop on Main Street.
The Sullivan brothers let Lee learn at his own pace, and it didn’t take long before he developed a passion for all facets of the jewelry trade. “My personality and what I do is driven by meeting people,” Lee explains. “I fell in love with creating experiences for people in exciting, life-changing moments.” In 2000, the brothers decided to retire, and Lucian took up the reins.
The face of the business, Lucian never wavers in his enthusiasm for his job. “Even after 48 years of doing this, nothing’s more exciting than seeing a young man and young woman go through the process of buying an engagement ring,” says the owner, who is now witnessing the third generation of families come into the new store. “We get to celebrate incredible moments in people’s lives. What could be better than that?”
Hale’s Jewelers, 761 Verdae Blvd, Greenville. (864) 297-5600, halesjewelers.com