Jeweler reflects on 30 years in business

Elegance Jewelers has been in business for more than three decades in and near Hagerstown, but Suzie Vance’s venture hasn’t sat still.

“I’m basically a personal-touch jeweler. … I love what I do,” she said. “I carry everything — loose diamonds, pearls, gemstones, pretty much everything.”

Vance recently moved her business from Pennsylvania Avenue to 19776 Longmeadow Road in the Village Green Shops. What hasn’t changed, she said, is her commitment to offering a wide range of jewelry — from inexpensive gift items to custom pieces — and maintaining relationships with her customers.

In addition to jewelry, Elegance Jewelers offers services from clock and jewelry repair to pocket-watch restoration. Vance’s store also carries some exclusive products, such as the Jacqueline Kennedy line of jewelry. For years, she said, her shop designed the rings for the Miss Maryland pageant.

Vance said she got her start in the business by selling Sarah Coventry jewelry. She then managed jewelry stores before launching her own by buying an existing business.

“I started at the (former) Tortuga Restaurant (on Dual Highway) in 1986,” she said.

She said the business’ location was near convention facilities.

“I dealt with the convention people (and) had a nice little shop there,” she said. “It was great.”

The business moved to Fountainhead Plaza, she said, then to a location in the Benjamin Art Gallery building on Pennsylvania Avenue. She recently had to leave that building, she said, and found the Village Green spot on Longmeadow Road. She said her family helped with the move.

She and her husband, Joe, have two children, Joseph Vance and Stacey Gatrell, as well as five granddaughters and four great-grandchildren.

Vance said her family has always been supportive of her business, and he said her daughter played a critical role in the move to the new store.

“Having a small business is tough. … It’s tough being a woman in business,” she said, adding that Elegance Jewelers has managed to ride through the ups and downs of the economy.

“I’ve never been real slow,” she said. “Most of the time people can afford to come in and get something.”

When she started, she recalled, there were “not a lot” of women-owned businesses in the area. She said she made contacts with other local business women, and she led seminars about jewelry for various groups.

“You’ve got to keep plugging along and be out there in the community,” she said.

In its new location, Elegance Jewelers has kept the same phone number at 301-791-7470 and hours, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.