by Max Marbut
There isn’t much that could distract a jewelry store customer from a room full of diamonds and gold, unless it’s a panoramic view from the 25th floor of one of Downtown’s tallest buildings.
For Hugh Harby, owner of Harby Jewelers at Riverplace Tower, distracted customers are part of the routine.
“This location catches people off-guard,” he said.
Harby is the third of four generations in the family business. His grandfather founded it more than 50 years ago and now Harby and his son, Brad, are the proprietors.
Being high above the street is nothing new for the business or the owners. Located Downtown since the first day in business, the Harbys have always worked in high places.
Their first store was in the old Atlantic Bank Building on Forsyth Street. The store then moved a few doors down to the new Atlantic Bank Building (now the BB&T Building).
Four years ago, the Harbys relocated to the Southbank on the southeast corner of the 25th floor at Riverplace Tower.
“We have never been on the street level,” said Harby, who explained that his father preferred some altitude for the business.
“Dad liked being upstairs. It’s more private and we don’t have to be open on weekends. We don’t see as much foot traffic, but people who come here are really interested,” Harby said.
The showroom has a view that stretches from the Shipyards property on the north to as far west and south as the eye can see. Harby Jewelers has a telescope in the corner of the showroom and a pair of binoculars on one of the display cases.
“We can watch the Jaguars practice at the stadium and we can see the Blue Angels when they’re at NAS Jacksonville. This building is a landmark and I can’t imagine a better place to be,” Harby said.
The store offers a complete line of merchandise and services, including repairs and appraisals, but the specialty of the house is diamond engagement rings.
“Dad always said an engagement ring is the future of the business. It gets the under-30 crowd in the store and people always remember where they bought their engagement ring,” said Harby.
Catering to the younger demographic also has changed the store’s marketing strategy. Harby said the website, www.harbyjewelers.com, brings in a lot of new customers and he also uses social media to promote the store.
“It’s a fun business,” he said.