“Life is based on building on the opportunities we create throughout our life.” –Anonymous
Over the course of 34 years, as a designer and creator of fine art jewelry, I’ve occupied three different locations on Main Street in downtown Greenville. During that time, I’ve witnessed all the changes that have taken place in the downtown area.
In 1986 I joined downtown, occupying a small jewelry studio that stood roughly near the present-day Halls Chop House at 550 South Main. This was long before revitalization efforts began in the downtown area. Camperdown Bridge crossed the Reedy River and the Peace Center and Liberty Bridge weren’t even dreams.
Three years later, in 1989, my business had matured enough for me to open my first retail store, and I moved uptown to 233 North Main. I called the store Avant Gold Gallery, thinking how clever the name was. Apparently, I was too “avant-garde” because most of my customers didn’t get the play on words. Although they didn’t understand the name, they liked my designs and purchased my jewelry creations.
It was also in 1989 that the first of—to my mind—the two greatest positive changes to the downtown area occurred: the opening of the Peace Center. This performance venue became the hub of cultural events in greater Greenville and the Upstate. It also established the North Main retail commercial area with the Peace Center marking the southern and the Hyatt Regency Hotel the northernmost points.
By 1992 I was ready to move again. I purchased the building in which llyn strong fine art jewelry is currently located, at 119 North Main. The storefront had been vacant for a while and was formerly a moderately-priced clothing shop. Starting with bare walls and floor, I created the interior look that our customers know today: high ceilings, well-lit glass cases, and room on the walls for works of art—all to showcase and complement our fine art jewelry.
As do all jewelry stores, I have a large and very heavy safe. Moving this safe was not for the faint of heart; a forklift was the only solution and it garnered lots of attention! After wrangling it onto the conveyance, it was driven up Main, through the front doors of my new store and onto its permanent spot.
In 1992 downtown Greenville was still in transition. The second great positive change to the area came in 2004: the opening of the Liberty Bridge over the Reedy River. This attraction became the anchor for expanding the South Main retail commerce district.
Fun fact: In the earlier part of the 20th century, Sydney Strong’s great grandfather ran a store specializing in studio photography on the second floor of this very building.
In 2005, I moved my household upstairs of the store. One of my most memorable activities at Christmas time was hanging an upside-down Christmas tree and running a snow machine so it snowed from the upstairs window, which opened onto Main Street. Over the past 34 years, as I’ve watched downtown Greenville grow and change, I’ve cultivated my business from a small studio space to a full-fledged retail art jewelry gallery with an international clientele. Building on that success, I’m now reimaging the next phase of my professional life as a fine jewelry artist. Stay tuned!