by Michael Sanz Photography by Christian Lee
Visiting Quinn's Diamond Jewelers shop in Village at Wexford is guaranteed to get your blood pumping, and your senses firing. As soon as the bell rings when you open the door, you are greeted by one of the Quinn’s toy poodles, Kasey or Kody. The first bark is a, “Hey, who are you?” The second bark clearly states, “You’re good. C’mon in and make yourself comfortable.” Walking towards the desk, the sparkle of the diamond displays and the glitter of the impeccably designed watches, flood the pupils of your eyes. Nancy Quinn welcomed me, as I asked to speak with Darrel, her husband. A booming voice from the back immediately responds with, “That’s me.” Around the corner steps Darrel, tall and smiling with a half-eaten sandwich in his hand. Some people have that special something to fill a room. Darrel possesses that trait. The combination of his boisterous personae, boundless energy, expressive confidence and ear to ear grin convinces you that Darrel is a “Let’s go guy.”
After the final gulp of his sandwich and a quick adjustment for a customer, we sat down in the shop. We had a fantastic discussion sharing Darrel’s experiences, challenges and celebrations. The first topic to come up was how Darrel survived a battle with colon cancer when he was 43. This personal battle set the tone for Darrel’s approach to life from that point forward. “I never have a bad day,” he announced with a beaming smile. Each customer visiting the store can expect expertise, service and one of Darrel’s jokes. He ran one of his favorites by me. “My doctor said I need a new brain. How much, I asked. Well, a female brain would only be $5000, but a male brain will cost you $50,000. Why such a difference? The doctor responded, a male brain is never used!”
Darrel’s installment in the world of jewelry is generational. His dad and uncle were jewelers and experts during the time when watches were the central piece of the business. Darrel started working with his dad when he was in the eighth grade. His dad demanded attention to detail, total dedication to providing a quality product and outstanding service to the customer. Darrel’s dad started him on watch repair. “I had to take every piece of a watch apart and then put it all back together again. We are talking about a lot of tiny pieces.” After graduating from the University of Illinois, Darrel went to work with his dad. He attained his jeweler’s certification, intensely studied the science of time and was recognized as an expert Horologist. Nancy and Darrel opened their first jewelry store in 1977, and over 40 years owned three successful shops in Illinois and Iowa. They semi-retired in 2008, sold two shops, and moved to Hilton Head Island. The legacy continues as the Quinn’s son is now an expert jeweler, running things up north. Just four months into retirement, Nancy told Darrel she was bored. The solution was simple. They opened up a new shop on the Island.
New challenges faced Darrel and Nancy when they rekindled the business. “A significant shift in the industry has been the influx of box stores and the Internet. Also, watch sales have dropped dramatically in the last decade. This can be attributed to a majority of people now using cell phones as their timepiece,” explained Darrel. Smiling with a brilliant sparkle in his eyes, matched by the luminescence of the diamonds embracing his space, Darrel described the plan. Service and creativity have been the crux of continued success in this new era. Referring again to his apprentice days, his dad centered everything on service. The key was being an expert in repairs. Darrel confidently reinforced he can repair any piece of jewelry brought his way. “The number of certified jewelers has dropped dramatically—over 30 percent, in the last ten years. As this trend continues, our value to customers will continue to rise.”
Creativity is, however, the key to finding a niche in today’s retail jewelry market. An excited Darrel showed me a catalogue of his most creative endeavors. One customer, recently widowed, brought in his wife’s wedding band. He hoped to have it transformed into a cross to be worn on a chain. Darrel magically transformed the ring, customizing it to accommodate the wishes of the grateful customer. Darrel also continues to be a lifelong learner, attending conferences, researching new innovations and coming up with original designs on his own.
So as spring approaches, and you’re looking to surprise a loved one with a piece of timeless jewelry, visit Darrel and Nancy at Quinn Jewelers. Enter the shop with an open mind. A gentleman with funny glasses on his head will approach you with a big sincere smile, bursting with the energy of a bunny with a drum. He’ll chat with you but also listen intently. You may leave with something brand new, or drawings displaying an amazing transformation of a meaningful piece already in hand. Along with Darrel’s entertainment and smiles, you’ll be convinced you’ve secured lifelong outstanding service and purchased an authentic timeless keepsake.