totheideaofmakingherstore“anexperience”beforeitbecameacommon topicineveryhow-can-my-store-survive-the-retail-apocalypsestory. On this particularApril afternoon, there are chocolate chip cookies (freshly baked in-store) and a bowl of jelly beans on the granite bar top. I ask if she swaps out the jelly beans for gumdrops come Christmas. Dumb question. “Are you kidding?” she replies. “Christmas is a whole spread. I have hoagies that go out here, cheese, grapes, spreads. This is filled with food. Men will come in just to eat.” At less-hectic times of the year, Calhoun will take her dinner at the bar, look out at her store as she eats and think about things she could change or improve. She gets her ideas everywhere, from AGS Conclaves—she’s only missed one since the 1980s—from jewelry industry trade publica- tions, from her customers and from paying attention to trends in industries other than jewelry, including fashion and travel. Perhaps Calhoun’s dedication to continuing educa- tion is the result of what she learned just a few hours after making her first sale, 30-plus years ago: She didn’t know anything about jewelry, but if she wanted to be in this business, she’d better learn. THE FOUR CS: AN UNUSUAL INTRODUCTION In the 1980s, Calhoun was working at a bank in Spring City, Pennsylvania (the same bank that, incidentally, would later become her home) and dating John Strasbaugh, the now-retired owner of Oletowne Jewelers in near- by Pottstown. Though only in his mid-30s at the time, the jeweler suffered a massive heart attack on Thanksgiving and tapped his then-girlfriend, a bank teller who was good with money, to take over the busi- ness for him while he recovered. “He said to me, you’re going to have to go in and run my store for me for Christmas,” Calhoun recalled. “So I thought, how hard could that be? That has to be easy, right?” Her first customers strolled into the store on a Friday night in search of an engagement ring. The man point- ed to one in the case, and she pulled it out and told them the price. He then asked to see another ring with a diamond that looked to be about the same size but in a different mounting, so Calhoun got that one out too. Then came this question: They both look the same, so why is one $1,000 more than the other? “I said, ‘Well gee, I don’t know, he must have it mismarked, so take whichever one you want at the lower price,’” she says, her voice break- ing with laughter a bit at the memory. “I had no idea there was color, clarity, cut, nothing. I had no idea.” After they left with, of course, the more expensive diamond in hand, Calhoun began poking around in the engagement ring case and noticed that all the prices were different, and thought her boyfriend had screwed up royally. So she proceeded to do what she thought was a favor for Strasbaugh, who, if you’ll remember, has already suffered a massive heart attack. She “organized” his showcase, rewriting all the price tags to make all the half-carat diamonds the same price, all three-quarter-carat diamonds the same price, etc. Then she headed over to the hospital to visit her beau and let him know about her first sale and case reorganization. The moment when she told him went like this, according to Calhoun. “I swear to God, John grabbed his chest and screamed, ‘It’s the big one!’ meaning he’s having another heart at- tack, and he’s like, ‘Y ou idiot, what is the matter with you?Are you nuts?’”After he calmed down, having dodged another heart attack, Strasbaugh proceeded to explain color, cut and clarity to Calhoun. And that was this now-well-known jeweler’s introduction to the four Cs. FROM ONE BANK TO ANOTHER Calhoun realized right away that if she was going to run Strasbaugh’s store while he recovered, she was going to need some education. NATIONAL JEWELER 9 “She’s never satisfied. It’s always a work in progress with her, and that’s why she’s so successful.” —Terry Chandler, president and CEO, Diamond Council of America Continued on page 11 Cathy Calhoun with one-time business partner (and one-time boyfriend) John Strasbaugh at Oletowne Jewelers in 1986. Below, Calhoun Jewelers as it looks today.