Walton's Antique and Estate Jewelry has been named one of "America's Coolest Jewelry Stores" by Instore, a magazine focused on North American jewelry retailers. Read the article below:
When a fire at an adjacent restaurant destroyed the back of Walton's Jewelry in downtown Franklin, TN, the last thing on Julie Walton Garland's mind was how that fire could reveal hidden architectural treasures. Yet, that's what happened.
The restoration revealed a trove of historical touches in the late-19th-century building her grandmother had purchased in 1982, including original red pine floors buried beneath layers of carpet, plywood tile and linoleum; a beadboard ceiling carefully preserved in plastic sheeting; and old brick walls just begging for another day in the sun.
Three generations of the Walton family history shine through that Main Street structure, too. Company founder Melba Walton had installed distinctive copper awnings. She and her son, Mike Walton, had assembled hand-built showcases that remain, complete with the childhood scribbles of Melba's grandaughter Julie.
"It was really exciting to me," Garland says. "It looks like it always should have, which is wonderful. The things that make us Waltons are now showcased better. Cases are original to when my grandmother opened the store. I just had wainscot panels added to the front."
Garland was drawn to her family's business of selling estate and antique jewelry through a love of history, signing on full time in 2012. "I like to learn about the era of the pieces and romanticize what the piece saw in its lifetime. You're not going to see the same thing walking down the street."
Garland gre up in the family jewelry store acquiring skills she didn't realize she was picking up from her father and grandmother.
"All my life I've known this location," she says. "I used to play with all the equipment, not knowing what it was. It's interesting to realize how much you absorb just watching and listening; showmanship has come very natural to me."
Her grandmother founded the business in 1974. Before having a showroom, Melba would sell jewelry on the hood of her car at flea markets, often setting up right next to people selling chickens.
But Garland didn't know her grandmother in a professional sense. "I didn't see the entrepreneur side because she was Maw-Maw to me.
"I always say I wish I had become more involved in the jewelry store when she was still alive and at the store," Garland says. "When I did become involved, her health was declining, and she wasn't conducting business. I wish I had been at an age that I would've known to ask the right questions."
Still, Garland feels a connection to her through her generational clientele. "There were people who bought from my grandmother at flea markets, and now their grandchildren are shopping with us, and they have jewelry that was enjoyed and celebrated and passed down."
Garland first tried wedding and event planning as a career. "I discovered that while I was good at it and enjoyed it, working late nights every Friday, Saturday and Sunday was starting to weigh on me quickly," she recalls. Her dad had never pressured her to join the business, but when she expressed an interest, he said, "why not give it a try?"
"It means so much to me. It's more than just a business, it's my family. Getting to be a part of the legacy my grandmother started is remarkable. Everyone who works here becomes like family as well. Franklin is near and dear to my heart and the business owners here are close friends. I love jewelry, I love antique jewelry, and I love the community."
Mike Walton, who is semi-retired and still shopping for inventory during his travels, was always open to his daughter's ideas to expand their online presence and e-commerce, which in turn helped grow the business. "My dad has been wonderful in being open to change, which is one of the reasons we are still successful, I believe. We didn't have much of an online presence at the time, but Dad knew that I'm super type A and organized, so he was like, 'Do your thing.'"
Garland has built a team of nine, between full and part time staff. "If you think you can do it all, you're lying to yourself. It's so important to have a team of people who are better than you in certain aspects. It takes a great team to be successful and to enjoy life.
"We used to hire for personality, but I do now try to hire people who have a background in luxury sales, if not jewelry. It can be taught, but it's a long process. We do a lot of jewelry repair, so it helps to have basic jewelry knowledge to be able to accurately take in jewelry repair."
Online presence is curated to offer a one-of-a-kind experience that is both timeless and on trend. Marketing estate and antique pieces that may be more than 100 years old in a way that's exciting isn't always easy, but the team is obsessed with antique jewelry.
"Love Stories" feature real couples sharing about the jewelry that marked their engagements and other milestones. Adding to the engagement allure of their social media, there's a professional in-house photographer on staff, thoughtful blog posts and weekly educational emails. A shoppable Instagram feed takes visitors straight to the items on the website and offers more suggestions handpicked by the team. "We strive to bring the ease and elegance of shopping at Walton's to buyers across the country," Garland says.
As for selling style, there's no pressure
"Our reputation and continued opportunity to share our love and expertise of antique jewelry is far more important to us than a one-time sale," Garland says. "I want people leaving thinking it was a fun, cool experience with a high-end twist. The key to our success generation over generation and decade after decade has been tracking metrics, valuing quality over quantity, and providing an exceptional experience from a genuine place of joy."