Herald Dispatch Article

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T.K. Dodrill emerges from diamond in the rough

Mar. 08, 2015 @ 12:30 AM

HUNTINGTON — Kirk Dodrill sometimes feels as if people have had to search for his jewelry store in a fashion similar to digging for diamonds or gold.

That won’t be the case much longer, as T.K. Dodrill Jewelers will move from 319 9th Street, where it has been since opening on Nov. 3, 1984, to its new location in Pullman Square.

“We’ll have more visibility,” Dodrill said. “Even though we own our building, I’ve admired that spot at Pullman for some time. The timing seemed right, and it will be nice to have an established jewelry store on the corner. I’m excited about it.”

Dodrill listed the advantages to the move: Greater visibility. More parking. Free 30-minute parking. Increased foot traffic. More space, including room for 15 cases, seven more than he currently has. Room for modern design, with a television and seating. Expanded hours and more.

“We hope to be a destination store,” Dodrill said. “We expect to keep all our regulars and pick up some new customers. People already have commented about seeing our sign over there.”

Dodrill plans a grand opening with his friend and Broadway performer J. Mark McVey scheduled to sing.

“We want to make it an event,” Dodrill said.

Custom designing a new store is a dream of Dodrill’s, who has become known for his custom-designed jewelry. No longer does Dodrill simply open the doors and invite the public to scan merchandise in the cases, although that option remains.

“The last 10 years we’ve swung more toward custom work,” Dodrill said. “We sit down and meet with the girl and get in her head. She might have gone on the Internet and seen this, this and this from three different rings, and wants aspects of all of them in her ring.We can do that. I definitely think that’s the future of the business. It definitely has changed. It used to be just about the only decision to be made was whether she wanted a four-pronged ring or a six-pronged ring.”

A first-generation jeweler and Huntington native, Dodrill began his career at Wise Jewelers. He worked in Roanoke, Virginia, and opened a store in Lynchburg, Virginia, for legendary jeweler Alvin Fink. After studying gemology and gaining experience, Dodrill opted to return home and open his own store.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Dodrill said. “I wanted to offer good work and service. It’s difficult to compete with the mall stores and discount stores, but that’s not what we wanted to be. I want our customers extremely happy.”

Designing and making custom jewelry might give Dodrill an edge.

“I’m not an artist by any means,” Dodrill said. “When a customer has something in mind, we can take that and put it together. We use computerized digital rendering to create an image we can show them and we can silver cast a piece for a couple of hundred dollars and from that make a $15,000 set.”

Dodrill enjoys taking a project from the customer’s mind to paper, to computer to finished product.

“It’s fun,” Dodrill said. “From thought to sketch to C.A.D. to finger. I enjoy that. They really design it. I make suggestions, and then we make it come true for them.”

Dodrill often sees his work on the fingers or around the necks of people in public.

“That’s the best advertising we can get,” Dodrill said. “When people ask them where they got that piece of jewelry and are told it came from T.K. Dodrill, that’s what we want.”

Sometimes Dodrill receives interesting requests and gently directs the customer in another direction. One customer wanted a large diamond cut into several small ones.

“You never want to do that,” Dodrill said. “It destroys the value. With diamonds, the bigger the better. Still, girls want their own style of ring and the girls who work here are good and can walk people through it. We’re all about listening. Listening to the customer is key.”

Dodrill employs 12 people. That could increase if the move to the new location is fruitful enough. That the location remains in town is gratifying to Dodrill.

“Everything we do here goes back into Huntington,” Dodrill said. “We do business with people who do business with us. We support downtown and hope others will, too. We strive for service and quality that you’re not going to get just anywhere. Having a good jeweler is similar to having a good doctor or a good lawyer.”

Customers have been loyal to Dodrill. Former Marshall University head basketball coaches Donnie Jones, now at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, and Billy Donovan, now at the University of Florida in Gainesville, still do business with him. Former Herd head coach Ron Jirsa continued doing business with Dodrill after moving on to the University of Minnesota. Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall still calls on Dodrill for jewelry.

“They’re loyal and that really helps us,” Dodrill said.

Dodrill said he plans to remain in the business a while longer before retiring and quite possibly entrusting the business to his son, Thomas Kane Dodrill, currently a senior at Huntington High School.

“He’s shown interest in going into the business,” Dodrill said. “The business could continue for many years.”