My family has run The Jewelry Store in Bryan, Texas for forty-three years in the same location. Back then, when my grandmother called in orders to Stuller, Matt Stuller answered the phone . . . or so I’ve been told. I was raised in this store— from crawling on the carpet to now designing custom jewelry using CounterSketch®. The proof is on the walls! I have drawings all over our back walls that grew better as I got older and taller. My grandmother spoiled, or as she says loved me, allowing me to grow up playing video games and drawing on the walls in the back of the store through my youth. I look forward to passing this on to my three kids one day.
From the ground up
Chase Colwell, on left, pictured with his parents Robby and Michelle
Growing up, I watched my parents and grandparents do things I’m now able to do myself. After class in high school, I’d walk a block down to our shop. Once I graduated, I went across town to College Station, studying at a little agricultural school named Texas A&M University. Throughout my time at A&M, I worked in the store as much as I could, beginning with jewelry repair. My dad, a bench jeweler for over 30 years, taught me everything from the ground up.
I began making artwork out of coins to learn the feel of a handsaw and attention to detail; I still have my first coin on a keychain! Then, I learned all aspects of benchwork through silversmithing. My first project was to bend silver stock over a ring mandrel and solder together a size 7 ring. This is the same process I’ve used thousands of times since in my handmade silver jewelry line.
After finishing at A&M, I decided to branch out on my own and start a landscaping business. It didn’t take long to realize I was in the wrong business. After a few rainy days spent hanging out at the shop with dad and watching him sell rings for numbers that would’ve taken countless back-breaking hours behind a mower, I sold my landscaping equipment and set up a permanent bench at our family store. I’ve worked here ever since. From jewelry repair to design, we complete our work by hand at the bench with heat and elbow grease.
Chasing big dreams
I intended on continuing benchwork with my father, Robby Colwell, at The Jewelry Store to carry on our business. But something happened last year that changed everything. I injured my neck while training for an Olympic Selection Shotgun Match. I grew up shooting shotgun sports (trap, skeet, sporting clays, etc.), competing in the Texas 4-H program, Texas A&M team, and with the Olympic development program. Then life hit me with kids, wife, and work. I laid down my shotgun and decided competing for a gold medal didn’t pay as much as learning how to make gold rings. After watching the Rio Olympics, I was shocked that not one United States man made the Olympic Trap finals, and even more astounded that the scores these Olympic athletes were putting up were scores that I used to be able to shoot.
I decided to pick up my old faithful over and under shotgun and try my luck 15 years later with a few rounds of trap. Sure enough, my scores were consistently 22-24 out of 25. Once I found out the next Olympic selection match for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics was only five months away, I resumed practicing. Soon enough, I began feeling the all-too-familiar pain in my arm and fingers which wouldn’t go away. Three years earlier, I’d injured my neck and had surgery to replace and fuse two disks in my upper spine. Now I found myself back at the neurologist examining MRI results. We both knew what caused the neck injury this time.
Turning challenge into opportunity
I remember leaving the doctor’s office in tears knowing that my aspiration for the Tokyo Olympics was over and my career was in jeopardy. No more clay target shooting or hunting. The next realization was that I was on a path to potentially jeopardize the success of the business my grandmother founded and I’d hoped to raise my family around. I had a second surgery the following week and did physical therapy afterward. Recovery was quick. Soon enough, I was back at work and helping customers in the front of the store.
I gradually got back into benchwork, but each time I made a piece, I was in pain from my lingering injuries. Month after month, it didn’t get better. Was I going to rely on my dad to do all the custom jewelry and repair work from this point on? Then, I spoke to our absolutely lovely Stuller Rep, Rhonda, about the CounterSketch program. Knowing my parents’ old school ways, I knew I would have to set this up on my own accord. Rhonda came into The Jewelry Store about five short months ago with Tim Brown and they were able to showcase the possibilities of this handy design software. In return, our business of 43 years has experienced the best summer sales ever!
A few CounterSketch designs by Chase Colwell
A fresh start with CounterSketch Success
Now, with this amazingly simplistic and fun to use program installed on a fast gaming computer (thanks Tim), we carry out essentially every custom job using CounterSketch. I’m not only helping Pops by designing jewelry and being on the sales floor with customers but now he doesn’t have the labor-intensive job of putting a ring together with a mini torch from scratch. Nope, all Pops needs to do is occasionally set a few customers’ stones into their rings and it’s out the door! The profits we’ve seen in our business from this program has also allowed us to buy new tools for the workshop, including a brand-new, top-of-the-line workbench for my dad!
After purchasing CounterSketch, my dad had another great idea. We retired his old workbench which served our family for 40 years, through three generations, and installed a big flat screen on the showroom floor to show off CounterSketch’s capabilities. The software has actually allowed us to set ourselves apart from others in our area. We’re a mom and pop shop with new age technology. People love to sit down and design because it’s fun and engaging. The experience is reassuring to sit in a store that has longevity and a great reputation, knowing all the while that we aren’t going anywhere.
In the last four months, we’ve been able to generate the most summer sales that we have experienced in 43 years of business! Personally, it’s allowed my design skills to flourish and has turned my line of custom silver jewelry into a full-blown jewelry line with a watermark (thanks Stuller for setting that up for me). Not only am I being recognized locally as a premier jewelry designer, but recently, I was honored by being named Stuller’s #HowIStuller Designer of the Week on Instagram with a rockin’ bass guitar ring designed for a professional actor and musician.
Customer service is key
Another factor that sets our store apart is stellar customer service when it comes to customization. We go above and beyond to serve our customers, making sure everyone leaves The Jewelry Store happier than when they entered. I personally text each customer when their repair is ready for pick up, keeping in contact with each customer throughout every CounterSketch project. I enjoy taking my laptop home after work and coming up with a few rendered pictures to send to customers at night so when they come back in we can go over a few designs. They are reassured that their file is saved and there is no rush, worry, or hassle.
With three generations of customers to remember, meeting them and getting to know their story is my favorite part of working in this business. I find it much easier to remember people by getting to know their story. Now, I get to design wedding sets for customers whose grandparents had their rings designed by my grandparents. I love the opportunity to sit with customers, get to know them, then create a one-of-a-kind piece with their creativity and my design experience combined. There are no ifs, ands, or buts; CounterSketech keeps me and the customer on the same page. They design what they are spending their money on as they fall in love with it. And that’s before I show them the best part. “Would you like me to generate you a high-resolution photo of your ring on a hand?” It blows their minds every single time!
As a 33-year-old third generation jeweler, I once specialized in Christian-themed silver jewelry. Now, with CounterSketch, I can make just about anything. I love coming to work each and every single day and bringing ideas to life. I married my Bryan High School sweetheart, Jaimie, and we have a lovely, diverse family of three children and one ferocious feline— Maribelle The Cat Chandelier. I love being with family, teaching Sunday school at Connecting Point Church, and anything outdoors (as long as it doesn’t involve a shotgun).
It’s amazing to think I grew up rolling around on the floor in the same shop that now supports my family. Because of its success, we’ve been able to do things that never would have been possible otherwise. After completing a year of training with Nikki Pederson Talent, my daughter Sophia is leaving for Los Angeles to pursue her acting dreams, with auditions already lined up! I was on top of the Beverly Hills Hilton a few months ago at a party full of actors, agents, managers, and producers— all of whom were blown away when I pulled out my phone to show them my latest CounterSketch renders. I thought to myself right then, “Wow our little jewelry store might have some big clientele coming our way!”
The Jesus Story Necklace by Chase Colwell
The Jesus Story Necklace that I used to cut out by hand, one at a time with a hand saw, is my favorite design I’ve ever created. It’s a sideways bar with the symbols representing the story of Jesus. He came down, died on the cross, went to the tomb, ascended to Heaven, and promises to come back. This simple design has changed the eternity of many people I know and countless others whose stories I hear. I’ve sold over 400 of these simple necklaces in two years and now they are in thirteen states and three countries. Thousands of testimonies are shared with people who just walk up and ask what the symbols mean. I still love making huge diamond rings too, like one I designed on CounterSketch with over 200 stones set. I enjoy custom gents’ rings, like the bass guitar and drum ring. But, The Jesus Story Necklace is where it all began. And in the end, it’s the only thing that really matters to me.
A bit of advice from Chase Colwell
The single most important piece of business advice is simple: genuinely dedicate yourself to your customer service. It’s number one! No matter who walks through that door, you must treat them as your number one priority, even if it’s just for a watch battery or a simple ring cleaning. Because oftentimes, those two mundane tasks lead to many custom design jobs with CounterSketch.