Marla Kemsey – Decision Maker, Decision Facilitator

Marla Kemsey, owner of Kent Jewelers The first time I walked into Kent Jewelers, it felt like a homecoming. I grew up working with my parents in a jewelry store. Before I was old enough to work the salesfloor, I kept the glass display cases clean and gift-wrapped small boxes filled with treasure – special gifts for those who are treasured.

When I arrived at Kent Jewelers to interview its owner, Marla Kemsey, she was busy taking care of a customer interested in purchasing an engagement ring. I listened from across the room as she talked with the young man and his father about what to consider when making a diamond purchase. She made it clear that it was not her job to sell him a diamond he likes, but to help him find a diamond “she” (his fiancée) would like.

When my time with Kemsey came, I asked about her sales approach and her business. She replied, “The girl is usually about the ring – the presentation - the whole package. I am here to facilitate the purchase. I'm not here to 'sell' them a diamond. I'm here to help the customer make a good decision.”

Kemsey knows how to make good decisions. At the very least, she's made two of them. She opened Kent Jewelers five years ago, making it her second retail business in Blacksburg, Virginia. Chantilly Lace, her first business, opened in 1989 and is a successful bridal wear and formal wear shop still operating today.

“I mortgaged my house and started my first business 20 years ago because I wanted a place I could come to everyday that I enjoyed being in – one where I had control over the environment and could be happy. I was 27 then and knew that if I waited, I'd be too old and become resigned.”

If Kent Jewelers is an indication of Kemsey's success in creating a place that is enjoyable, then when you go there, expect to feel treasured, happy and at home. I know I did.


Z. Kelly Queijo is the founder of SmartCollegeVisit and a frequent contributor to Handshake 2.0.

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