Running his two jewelry stores in Egg Harbor Township and Ocean City and a sunglass shack keeps Anthony Bayham busy.
So does his other full-time job, handling luggage for Spirit Airlines.
“I’m the kind of guy, the glass is always half full. So the harder you work, you can pretty much do anything you want, even if you struggle through it,” said Bayham, 36, of Mays Landing, who started working on the Ocean City Boardwalk when he was 13. “It comes down to determination. How much do you want something?”
In the business world, Bayham said creativity can be critical. With his wife, Mary, he owns Belle Jewelers in Egg Harbor Township, as well as the Jewelry Hut and Alex’s Sunglass Shack on the Ocean City Boardwalk.
Bayham bought the Jewelry Hut in 2004, having worked and sold jewelry on the Boardwalk for the previous 15 years. Almost 40 percent of the shop’s revenues came from Pandora-brand products.
But since another nearby business also carried the line, Pandora wanted the Jewelry Hut to drop its products, Bayham said.
“I started brainstorming. How am I going to replace this?” he said.
So he invented his own line of charms called Ocean City Memories that he could sell in Ocean City.
These charms depict Ocean City-specific businesses and landmarks from Johnson’s Popcorn to the Music Pier.
“And, honestly, it has saved my business up there,” he said.
In 2010, Bayham opened Belle Jewelers in Egg Harbor Township, where he carries the Pandora brand.
He opened Alex’s Sunglass Shack at that time, too. Both businesses are named after the couple’s young children, Alexander and Madison Belle.
The new businesses opened in a down economy that has cut consumer discretionary spending. Meanwhile, market prices of gold and silver have risen.
Each year from 2010 to 2012, gold prices rose about 27 percent, 10 percent and 7 percent, respectively, according to GoldPrice.org. Recent prices have been near $1,700 an ounce.
This has put more emphasis on silver and other metals that are less expensive than gold.
“The higher gold goes up, it’s harder to sell, harder for people to afford and harder for us to buy it,” he said. “What we have done and most jewelry stores have really switched to silver or higher quality silver products.”
Being a mom-and-pop is no small feat and no small investment.
When he bought the Jewelry Hut, it did not include inventory. He said he took on about $200,000 in debt the first year.
“It was scary, because I had never been in debt in my life up until that point. I was working 80 hours a week, and I didn’t have many bills because I was living at home for a lot of that time,” he said.
The venture paid off.
That first year he redesigned the store and gave it a facelift befitting an island grass hut, an immediate attraction to Boardwalk browsers.
Gross sales grew by 47 percent that first year, he said.
“In my opinion in business, there are two or three things that keep or attract a customer — one, the store should always be bright and clean. Two, customer service — not that the customer’s always right, but if you treat a person like you want to be treated, chances are they’ll come back. And give them a quality product at a good price,” he said.
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