TERRE HAUTE —
After a quarter century in the Honey Creek Mall, Ross Elliott Jewelers, a longtime family-owned business, has moved into new digs northeast of Honey Creek Mall in a converted bank building.
Ross Elliott’s, which has been selling wedding rings, engagement rings and other jewelry in Terre Haute since 1947, opened at its new location over the weekend. It had been in the mall since the mid-1980s.
“We looked at it for a long time,” said owner Bill Elliott of the new location. Elliott has managed the business started by his late father, Ross, for more than three decades.
The new store is 6,000 square feet and includes a second story for offices. The former location was 1,200 square feet, Elliott said.
“The store is just absolutely gorgeous,” said Denise Henshaw of Pandora, a jewelry retailer, who was setting up merchandise inside Ross Elliott’s new location last week before the first day of operations.
The most innovative feature of Ross Elliott’s new location will be a drive-up window for customers to drop off rings for checking and cleaning. Bill Elliott got the idea from a jewelry shop owned by a friend in another state and wanted to try it here, he said.
“This is all about customer service,” Elliott said of the drive-up service window. Many jewelers believe you need to require customers to walk into the store to have their rings cleaned, but Elliott believes it will be more convenient for folks to drop off their rings without leaving their cars, do some shopping elsewhere, and then return.
“It’s surprising how many regular customers use the cleaning and checking service,” Elliott said, adding that the drive-off service area will be monitored, as is the entire store, by several security cameras and other devises.
All of the same products carried at the previous Ross Elliott’s location, such as Hearts of Fire diamonds, will be carried in the new location, Elliott said. The new store will have about 20 percent more inventory, including a new offering, Eleganza, which is a sterling silver jewelry with gold accents, he said.
The business’s founder, Ross Elliott Jr., the oldest of six children and a graduate of Garfield High School, entered the jewelry business around the time of World War II, working for Hillman’s Jewelers in Terre Haute. During World War II, Ross Elliott served in the U.S. Army Air Corps and then returned to Terre Haute and the jewelry business.
Soon, Ross Elliott Jr. decided to start his own business, which he called Vigo Manufacturing, at 12th Street and Wabash Avenue. The business serviced jewelers, not the general public. Only later did he decide to enter the retail business as Ross Elliott Jewelers in 1947.
“Mom and Dad both worked long hours” at the store, Bill Elliott recalls, noting that his mother, Carol Elliott, a native of Minnesota who Ross met while stationed with the military in California, was “the money person,” handling all the finances.
In the 1950s, Ross Elliott’s operated in the Meadows Shopping Center on the city’s east side. The business then moved downtown into several different locations, including 108 N. Seventh St. and the corner of Fifth and Wabash.
The jewelry business was very different back then. Diamonds were typically much smaller and stores often sold items such as tools to bring people in the doors, Elliott said.
“When I look at some of the old balance sheets, I wonder how they made it,” he said.
Ross Elliott Jr. passed away in 1967 at age 46. Carol Elliott retained the business and kept it growing. Bill entered the business after studying business at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
Around 1980, the store opened a new location near the former Meis Department store downtown. It was operating there when the family elected to try opening a second, much smaller store, in the mall.
“I was floored,” Bill Elliott said of the sales the small mall location achieved in its first year in the mid-1980s. About a year later, Elliott closed the downtown location and, in 1990, opened for business in “center court” at the mall.
Today, the Elliott family is excited about their new business location. On Friday, workers, family and store employees were still busy inside the former Fifth-Third Bank facility getting things ready for greeting Saturday morning’s first customers. Long hours of preparation were about to be put to the test.
The new store will feature double security, utilizing vaults from the former bank and a three-ton safe from the former store. The new location also will feature, as decoration, the original one-ton safe purchased by Ross Elliott decades earlier and historic photos and framed advertisements from years past.
“And we’ll have a Ross Elliott again,” Bill said, speaking of his son, Ross, who has entered the business.
But the crowning moment for the new store came Friday afternoon when Carol Elliott, who, because of ill health, seldom leaves her small home in Terre Haute, visited the new store.
“That’s when it hit home,” Bill Elliott said of seeing his mother’s response to the new location. “We know all the years that she put in to the business, getting us to the point where we could take this step. That’s what it’s all about.”
Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or firstname.lastname@example.org.