Once he got into his groove, nothing could deter Vance Boyd from appreciating some of the finer things in life. Not being drafted into the military, not a robbery, and not health problems. Through it all, Boyd maintained his position as either a premier jeweler or designer for many of his Memphis clients for almost three generations. At the age of 87, and after 70 years of work, Boyd is finally ready to call it a day. But some of his clients aren’t so prepared to let him go. “I’ve announced I’m retiring,” says Boyd, “but nobody believes me! People have come up, but they’ve said ‘I won’t congratulate you, because I don’t think you’re going to quit.’”
Whether it’s denial, or simply an appreciation of his work over the years, many of Boyd’s clients don’t want to see him go. After all, he’s been helping Memphians pick out exquisite jewelry and antiques for a long time, and has developed a taste and eye for quality that others can only envy.
At the age of 18, he answered an employment ad for Brodnax Jewelry Company and held almost every conceivable position the company had. However, the most impressionable job was in the receiving department, where he would unbox all the jewelry that shipped into the store. “Unpacking those boxes, it was like Christmas every day,” says Boyd.
After a long career with Broadnax, Boyd struck out on his own and opened Vance Boyd & Son Fine Jewelers in Clark Tower. Throughout 20 years running his own business, which involved relocating to Park Place Mall and opening a sister store at The Peabody, Boyd cultivated close relationships with many of his customers. To many, he was even a friend and confidant. Good taste, combined with a deep connection to his clients, really allowed Boyd to select the perfect jewelry for each individual.
Once finished with jewelry, Boyd opened up Vance Boyd Antiques & Collectibles on the corner of Cooper and Union. There, he continued to cultivate close relationships with the majority of his clients while finding enjoyment in the decoration of people’s homes.
Now that retirement is on the horizon, Boyd has recently discovered his passion for painting. A sun room in his home acts as the perfect studio where he can continue sharing his g
ood aesthetic taste, this time on the canvas.
IMB: Trends and style are always changing; how has the landscape changed ever since you started?
Vance Boyd: In the jewelry scene, it’s changed immensely. Many small items were popular, like jewelry earrings. The trends switched to larger items, but then it swung back to smaller pieces again. The thing is, so many of the styles come back, like clothing. If you hold on to something for enough years, you can bring it out and everyone thinks you just bought it, as it’s back in style again. People who buy really expensive clothes keep most of them. After 20 years, you can start wearing it again. Sometimes there’s a little difference when styles come back, but most times it’s almost identical.
Would you say the same thing regarding interior design?
VB: Colors come and go. Colors are forever, but some are more popular than others during certain years. There are times when people paint their rooms red or forest green, maybe olive green. I can remember in the 1950s when I moved into a house, we had to have an olive green refrigerator and stove. Olive green was big in decorating, but I haven’t seen that around for a while. Colors do come and go, and some don’t come back at all. Now, the trend is no color, but it’s about to leave again already. For the last couple of years, everything was beige and grey, tone on tone. People just weren’t putting up colorful draperies and upholstery. People are getting tired of it quickly. Most people do like color, but that is just the trend right now, everything looking very neutral.
Did you ever find it difficult to keep up with changing trends?
VB: I never did. For some things, like antiques, you have to realize that they never go out of style. Some of them have been around for as long as you can remember.Fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth century — many of these antiques have been around for many years, so they don’t go out of style. Trends will come in, take over for a little bit, but it never stops
the traditional style. Many people are wise enough to know that if you buy a traditional piece, that piece is forever. However, there’s another way to approach it.
Some people don’t want antiques all over their house, but my taste is more eclectic. I like to mix some antiques with a few new things, and also a dash of other accessories. I’d
love to throw in a real modern sort of coffee table, with a glass top and fine brass legs. It’s good to have a touch of modern with the antiques. It makes your home more interesting, and it makes you look at everything. If you have everything in just one style, say all English or all French, you see the room, but you don’t really see all of the individual items.
Have you ever had to change the way you did business, or has that personal connection to your customers always been effective?
VB: No, I’ve been personable all my life. I think two things helped me with my career. It was very obvious I was an honest, sincere person, and I really cared about whether they were getting the right piece. I didn’t just go for the sale and claim that something
looked fabulous if it didn’t. People recognized that I was that way. I think honesty and taste were crucial. If you look at the books on how to be a great salesman, I’m not in them. I could never have sold cars or insurance; I think you have to be a great salesman for those. I think I could sell homes, or clothing, because they are beautiful. I get excited over everything I sell, and that excitement transfers to my customers. That, along with my honest look and their trust, is what has made me so successful.