Trey Bailey is the director of operations for Bailey's Fine Jewelry, which has two stores in Raleigh, a shop in Rocky Mount and a location in Greenville. He's also the grandson of the founder and the son of the current owner.
In an interview with Crain's Raleigh-Durham, the third-generation gemologist discussed the family business, explained how Bailey's competes with online jewelry retailers and shared the "love story" that built the business nearly 70 years ago.
Q: As a company with multiple brick-and-mortar stores, how do you compete with e-commerce? For example, how do you sell someone looking to buy an engagement ring on the in-person experience?
A: The jewelry business is a competitive industry, especially as e-commerce sites have become more and more popular. We are fortunate that most people still want to see and touch fine jewelry before they buy it. What differentiates Bailey’s from those e-commerce sites and other jewelers, is a dedication to quality and customer service. While we have a small e-commerce portion of our website, our four brick-and-mortar stores are our bread and butter and always will be. The in-person experience is truly what makes Bailey’s, Bailey’s. It’s often difficult to tell the true quality of an engagement ring online. Coming into the store, being able to try it on, see other options and imagine the future that an engagement ring signifies is what makes the in-person experience so important when buying an engagement ring.
Bailey’s stands out from its competition because we’re truly a family business that cares. My grandfather and grandmother started the business in 1948 in Rocky Mount, N.C., and the family continues to own and operate all four of our stores today. We’ve worked really hard to put together a team that goes above and beyond for our patrons – the Bailey’s Extraordinary Experience is what we call it. We’re different because we’re not just looking to sell a ring or necklace; we’re looking to create an experience that our patrons will never forget and that they can’t get anywhere else.
Q: What's the best compliment you've ever received from a customer?
A: We’re so fortunate in that we receive compliments from our patrons every day. One of the biggest compliments we get is when we hear about families that have been shopping with us for multiple generations.
One fun thing that we like to do is hide little jewelry boxes with a bracelet or other piece of jewelry around the towns where our stores are for anyone to find. We call it Finders Keepers. One time a girl who had lost her best friend a few weeks prior found one of the boxes. The friend who passed away had the last name Bailey and she felt like it was a sign that he was OK. We receive compliments on our customer service, inventory and staff every day, but the messages where we truly touch someone’s heart mean the most to us.
Q: How did Bailey's begin?
A: It began as a love story: a love of jewelry and a deep love between two people. Bailey’s strong foundation was built by the admiration my grandparents, Clyde Sr. and “Mama” Ann Bailey, had for each other. Together, they opened Bailey’s in 1948. Clyde Sr. was a highly-skilled craftsman and watchmaker, and Ann was a full-time working mother, which was very rare in those days. Their marriage of talent and hard work made a perfect match.
Tragically, Clyde Sr. died when he was only 46. Ann, at just 36 years of age, had one choice: “to keep on keepin’ on.” This motto propelled my grandmother to become the first female business owner/operator in Nash County. And while some men in town had bets on when she would go out of business, Mama Ann said: “They didn’t know this girl!” Her conviction and perseverance were tested early in her life, one that started hard and only got worse. Her father died when she was 2 and her mother soon followed. Ann was sent to Oxford Orphanage at the age of 8. Tragedy struck several times in her life, but she decided that hard work was the best remedy for hardship. With unflagging determination and the help of her family, she built a sparkling empire from scratch.
The love story continues with my parents, Clyde Jr. and Jane. The high school sweethearts married at the age of 18. They soon moved to Los Angeles where Clyde pursued an education in gemology. Upon returning to Rocky Mount, they built on the strong foundation of trust and loyalty that my grandparents had created. With big dreams and an even bigger work ethic, Clyde Jr. grew Bailey’s into one of the largest and most well-respected luxury jewelry stores in the country.
This love story has endured through the generations when I followed in my father’s footsteps to enroll at the Gemological Institute of America. While there, I met my soon-to-be wife, Marci, a fellow gemology student and jewelry designer. After dating only a year, we were married. My dad loves to say, “Trey left to go learn about gems and he came home with one.”
Bailey’s is now in its third generation of family ownership. My wife Marci and I, along with my brother-in-law, Doug Morgan, continue the tradition.
Q: What are the company's goals for the next 30 years?
A: We’ve accomplished so much in the past 30 years that it’s hard to say what the future holds. We are always open to the right opportunities, but we want to stay small to keep the personal family touch. It’s also important for us to stay on top of trends in the jewelry industry – to truly be experts in our field. We pride ourselves on using state-of-the-art technology and techniques that most other companies haven’t adopted yet. We always want to be ahead of the curve and we want to be the place people come to create their dream pieces or repair something other places cannot. But beyond that, providing our patrons with that unmatched customer service, the Bailey’s Extraordinary Experience, will always be our No. 1 goal and priority.