‘Darn glad to be back:’ Falls Jewelers returns to downtown Kannapolis, where it all began
KANNAPOLIS — With downtown Kannapolis looking increasingly like a ghost town during the economic downturn in 2010, Sam Falls was confronted with a harsh reality.
“There were like three businesses left in downtown,” Sam said. “Our bookkeeper came to me and she said, ‘We’ve got to move.’”
After working as a jeweler in the city for decades, Sam was forced to move his store a few miles southwest to Concord. In the decade since, Falls Jewelers has thrived in the bustling Afton Ridge shopping center.
Still, there’s no place like home.
That’s why, as more and more businesses in recent months began to open around the brand new Atrium Health ballpark in downtown Kannapolis, Sam, his wife and his two sons decided to return to where it all began. On May 15, Falls Jewelers opened a second store at 131 West Avenue, not far from where Sam originally opened his jewelry shop in 1990.
“I’m darn glad to be back,” Sam said.
Sam is the third Falls man to work at a shop selling precious stones wrapped in gold and silver. His grandfather, Herbert Falls, opened the Jewel Shoppe at 100 S. Main St. in the 1950s. That’s where Sam’s father, Don, worked too and where Sam spent much of his childhood.
After coming back to Kannapolis from college, Sam became a third generation jeweler when he and his wife, Jane, opened Falls Jewelers in a small space that was Coleman’s Jewelers. The store was there for five years before moving to another location downtown, then finally to the storefront that is now occupied by Local Patriot Roasting Company.
Like their father, Caleb and Spencer Falls grew up in their family’s jewelry store. When one of them was sick and had to stay home from school, Sam and Jane would take them to work and let them hang out in the basement below the shop, where there were movies and games galore.
As the brothers got older, they started getting more involved in the business.
“I remember, I guess I was in middle school and high school, mom and dad would run sales and I’d be the street guy,” Caleb said. “Me and my buddies would be stupid and dress up like Mario and Luigi and go out there and dance and spin a sign to get people in the door.”
The brothers always considered following in their father’s footsteps, but they didn’t decide fully until going off to college — Spencer to UNC Charlotte and Caleb to UNC Chapel Hill. They both called their father within a few weeks of each other to let him know they intended to enter the family business.
Spencer, the eldest, brought back with him the knowledge he learned while earning a business management degree. He’s now in charge of inventory, which is critical in the jewelry world. Caleb, an advertising and marketing major, has added his promotional expertise to help bring in new customers. But this time, he isn’t wearing a cartoon costume — he works through social media and other online avenues.
“The inventory control is a huge part of this business and Spencer is nailing that. It’s a big, big part,” Sam said. “Getting people in the door is the other part, and Caleb knows how to do that.”
It was Caleb and Spencer who first broached the idea of opening a second location in downtown Kannapolis.
“For me, I just saw all the potential that was coming back here,” Caleb said. “It really bothered me to even have the thought that another jeweler went back to Kannapolis who wasn’t us. For Spencer and I being the fourth generation, also the thought that there’s been three generations before us that have been in Kannapolis, the fourth needs to do the same.”
The family did worry about having two stores so close to each other, but that concern hasn’t played out. There have been plenty of customers from southern Rowan County who have visited the Kannapolis store who weren’t regulars at the Concord location.
“I’ve had conversations with people that live in China Grove or up in Mount Ulla who say, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m so glad you’re back in Kannapolis because it’s too far to go to Afton,’” Jane said. “I just think that’s awesome.”
There was no shortage of support when Falls Jewelers held its grand opening at 131 West Avenue in May. To draw people in, the store gave away surprise gift cards of up to $50 to the first 20 customers.
“There was a line down the block,” Jane said. “It was pretty cool.”
The support has remained strong in the weeks since. Even a Cannon Ballers baseball player has visited the store to buy a shiny chain.
Once the family moved into the location, it didn’t take long for Sam to settle back into the city where he first started working on custom jewelry with his father and grandfather.
“I didn’t know how glad I’d be to be back until I got on that bench back there and started doing benchwork again,” Sam said. “All of the sudden, it just felt like home.”