ROCKINGHAM – Thursday was an historic day in downtown Rockingham as a longtime business reopened its doors for business.
October 26th marked the official reopening of Helms Jewelers at 211 E. Washington Street in Rockingham, under the management of Ellyn Branick.
Since 1893, Helms has been a mainstay in Richmond County, attracting loyal customers throughout the county. The business has been passed down through generations with only a few owners outside the family. After 41 years, the most recent owners, City of Rockingham Mayor Steve Morris and his wife Cynthia, retired from Helms.
Born in Niagara Falls, N.Y., Branick has lived in Richmond County for 12 years, and remembers the day she met Morris. In fact, he was the first person she met in Rockingham. She was driving through the downtown area and saw the Helms sign.
The iconic Helms Jewelers sign that caught Branick’s eye.
Jewelry had always been of interest to her so she went in to “pick Morris’ brain about the business end of the jewelry industry.” Little did she know, at the time, that she would one day become the new face of Helms Jewelers.
About a year ago, Branick discovered Morris was having a retirement sale. She visited the store and informed him she was interested in purchasing the store upon his retirement. Eventually an agreement was reached, and according to Branick, “on October 16 the deal was sealed.”
Branick’s interest in buying and selling jewelry, specifically estate jewelry, began when she was a child. Her father was an avid attendee at auctions and was also a collector. Her first memory of attending an auction with him was when she saw a bookcase she wanted and her father told her if she wanted it, she would have to bid on it herself. She still has that same bookcase today.
“Pretty much my whole life I was interested in buying and selling antiques and estate goods,” Branick said. “I’ve been buying and selling estate jewelry seriously for 15 years or so.”
Branick is excited to have Morris alongside, helping her navigate the “ins and outs” of the business.
“Steve gave me a list of vendors that were reputable and have good items,” Banick noted.
Morris has been lending a hand to Branick as she has prepared for opening day.
“I’m excited for her,” Morris said. “I know she’ll do well.”
Branick said that she was pleased with the number of customers she has seen come in on opening day and was, “pleasantly surprised at the number of people that offered to help out.”
Of her inventory, Branick stated that she has a vast selection of absolutely beautiful estate jewelry and some store close-outs, as well as some very lovely things forthcoming.
“We are trying to carry on the tradition of what has been here their whole life and probably their parents’ whole life,” Branick said to inform potential customers.
The store’s showcases, built in the early 1900s, were custom-built for Helms’ Jewelers.
“They are staying, the Helms name is staying, and the concept of fine products and good service is staying,” Branick added.
“I know a lot about the different time periods and styles, and what goes into making various pieces,” she continued. “I want customers to know that I want to hear their requests. I’m taking my best guess from what Steve has told me and what my experiences have shown me as to what the buyers may want. If they don’t see what they want, I’ll do my best to get it.”
Helms’ store hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.