Biannual Jewelry Show Draws Hundreds to San Antonio Family Stores
By: David Ibata
When Majors Tim and Eileen Farrell arrived four years ago to be administrator and director of special services at the San Antonio, Texas, Adult Rehabilitation Center, its annual jewelry show already had been going for several years. The excitement of show time got the officers thinking.
“We asked our employees, do you think we can do this twice a year? They said, ‘of course,’” Major Eileen said. “Then, our second year, it’s like, ‘Think we can do this three times a year?’ I don’t see us going beyond three.”
“We’ve seen sales go from about $12,000 to $13,000 when we first started to over $22,000 at our February event … and at each event, we break the record set by the previous one.”
The shows rotate among San Antonio’s five Family Stores. They are held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. three Saturdays a year, in February, June and October. Up to 500 people show up.
“We don’t have anything online,” said Major Eileen. “You have to come to the show. And trust me, people do. … It’s exciting. There’s a charge in the air – not only among the staff, but among the customers, too.”
Offerings have ranged from costume jewelry at 99 cents apiece to a bridal set with an engagement ring and wedding band, sold for $699 at the February event.
As donations arrive at the ARC, the command’s jewelry and collectibles expert Pam Oakley sorts through them, sets aside the finer-quality gold, silver and name-brand items, and has them cleaned. Oakley goes online to research each item’s value – and then prices it at one-third that amount.
Every item, price tag attached, goes into a safe, to be held there for the day of the sale.
Major Eileen said that saving everything for the special day – rather than displaying an item in a Family Store with other merchandise – “gives people an opportunity to come where there is more product than a store would have on a given day.
“Collectibles also are part of the day. There might be a vase or an oil painting or something odd that catches your eye; Pam will have set these aside as well.”
Word of the Salvation Army jewelry show has gotten around. The event has a devoted following. The San Antonio Command puts the sale on its Facebook page, and if there’s a radio ad running at the time, on the air as well. But mostly, it draws people by flyers and word of mouth.
“That’s why, at the June 10 show, we’ll hand out flyers that our next jewelry event will be at Store No. 4 on Oct. 14,” Major Eileen said. “The line is out the building. I have pictures from past events where you can hardly see the sales tables for the number of shoppers around them.”
Six tables, each eight feet long, are filled to overflowing with costume jewelry and are restocked as the day goes on. Fine jewelry is locked and secured behind a counter. Fifteen people are on hand. Eight regular store staffers, their supervisor, extra hands including the Farrells, Oakley and her helper, and employees brought in to help from other locations pitch in to serve customers and run the cash register.
“We have fun,” Major Eileen said. “We take breakfast and lunch out to our crew because it’s such a busy day, and there’s really not a lot of time to get away.”
“We do all the set-up on Friday. The sale itself is Saturday. The remainder of the week, we leave the jewelry at that location” – just in case someone who passed on buying over the weekend comes back – “before we break it up and send it to the stores.” But Saturday sales are encouraged. “We tell (shoppers) if you see it and you like it, buy it, because it may not be here later.”
More than raising money, the event builds The Salvation Army’s brand.
“It definitely brings in customers,” Major Eileen said. “It brings in dealers – they make themselves known to us – and it brings a sense of community. We don’t have to shop the malls; we can get fantastic deals shopping locally at our Salvation Army stores. And we get people from all walks of life, from people dressed to the nines to your average everyday mom.”
Majors Tim and Eileen were moving on toward the end of June to a new posting as administrator and director of special services, respectively, at the ARC in Houston, Texas, but they’re confident they leave the jewelry show in good hands. “This will only grow bigger and bigger,” Major Eileen said.