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Business brings us its bling

By NICOLE HUTCHESON
Published May 23, 2007


OLDSMAR - The jewelry company responsible for adding the bling to Miss America's crown for years is making a new home in Oldsmar.

Sarah Coventry, the Rhode Island company that pioneered the direct-sales jewelry business, has moved its 20-employee distribution center and studio from Providence to Oldsmar. The company plans to add 100 more jobs in the next three years.

"We've grown so much in the past year, " said Lynn Branham, the company's executive vice president. "Recognizing we were leasing and the rate of our growth, we decided to really explore our options."

The company's headquarters had been in Rhode Island since the 1940s.

The move to Oldsmar came with incentives from the Pinellas County Economic Development office, including a $3, 000 tax credit per new job the company creates in the area, said Danielle Ruiz, business development manager for that office. When it's all said and done, that's a $300, 000 incentive. Employees also will get specialized training administrated by the office of economic development.

Recently, Sarah Coventry purchased a 7, 000-square-foot industrial condominium on Brooker Creek Boulevard. The purchase and construction was estimated at more than $1-million, Branham said.

"They've invested in the area, " Ruiz said. "Some companies relocate and lease, but when they relocate and invest in our community, that's very important."

Ruiz said the county considers the name recognition of the company another boon for the area. Through the mid 1970s, Sarah Coventry supplied crowns to the Miss America pageant. Several pieces of its jewelry have been featured on The Price Is Right game show. Vintage Sarah Coventry jewelry is now considered a coveted collectible.

The past several years have been ones of transition for the privately held company. After pioneering the direct-sales jewelry business, the company moved into a retail model and, from the 1980s to early 2000s, sold jewelry in large department stores. But in 2003, under new ownership, the company returned to its direct-sales roots. The company now has more than 1, 000 sales consultants who function as private contractors. They take orders for the jewelry and the orders are in turn filled at the Oldsmar facility. The consultants receive a commission from the sales.

"That's where the product line and brand were the most successful, " Branham said referring to the direct-sales model.

Within the next year, the company plans to have its entire operation under one roof in Oldsmar.

The company's official ribbon-cutting ceremony July 28 will include city officials. Oldsmar Mayor Jim Ronecker met with the company's business executives last week during a business tour.

"It's a clean business and a well-known business, " said Ronecker, a business owner himself. "So we're glad to have them here."

Nicole Hutcheson can be reached at nhutcheson@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4162.

Fast Facts:

Sarah Coventry

New location: 720 Brooker Creek Blvd., Suite 213, Oldsmar.

Employees: 20 full-time now, with 100 more to be hired over the next three years; 1, 100 independent consultants across the country.

Newest sales areas: Guam and Puerto Rico.