Whoever coined the phrase “diamonds are a girl’s best friend” probably met Belmont’s Paulette Embrey, or at the very least had her in mind.
“I have always loved jewelry,” Embrey said from behind one of the display cabinets in her store, Golden Dreams Jewelry. The store has been a longtime fixture in the city. “Mother and Daddy gave me my first real ring, my first birthstone when I was 10 years old. Then when I was 13 they gave me my first dinner ring. When I graduated high school I wanted a blue linde star sapphire and diamonds and they gave me that. I have just always loved jewelry and gemstones.”
Her love of jewelry didn’t initially translate into a career. She was a music major in college and taught music privately for 16 years after graduating. She has been a musician in church since she was in the sixth grade and continues to play piano at Calvary Baptist Church in Belmont.
Though she loved music, her interest in jewelry and gems continued to build. Initially it was a hobby, wherein she would check out books on gems from the library and study them. From there she began to sell jewelry for a friend who fixed her up with a briefcase of jewelry and other items, and she sold those to family and friends. It was then that she was sold – on going into the jewelry business.
She and her husband, Frankie, both enrolled in the Holland Jewelry School in Selma, Ala., in 1988. The first thing they were taught was basic jewelry repair.
“He started us out in soldering,” she said. “It was the very finest little chain, and you had to be able to put it back together when broken.”
The Embreys opened their store in Belmont in 1989, and then returned to the Holland school to study gemology. Their first store was across the street from their present location, on Hwy. 25 in Belmont, beside Subway. It was a smaller space. Eventually they were able to expand in that building as space became available. They operated there until health issues forced them to close the store in 2005. However, by 2007 they were able to reopen, and they did so across the street, where they are located now.
Building her brand
Embrey’s business grew to be known far and wide, as she used television and radio marketing to reach audiences outside the Baymont area. Embrey’s unique voice was as much of her brand as was her bright and warm personality. She’s always done her own advertising, and traveled many times to Tupelo and Booneville to record television and radio commercials. She recorded many radio commercials over the phone. That voice recognition paid off.
“Frankie and I have been out many times and we would be talking to each other and people would come up to me and say, ‘you’re the woman from Golden Dreams,’” she said. “I’ve had it happen many times. If they didn’t know my name, they knew I was associated with Golden Dreams Jewelry.”
Embrey said some of the best advice she got about going into the jewelry sales business was from her father, Gilbert Sartain, who advised her that if she was going to sell jewelry, she needed to do it for herself and not for someone else. Her father knew a thing or two about business as well, as he and his wife, Polly, – Paulette’s mother – owned Sartain’s Little Star in Tishomingo for 18 years.
Going into business for herself is something Embrey said has been an extremely rewarding experience. She’s had customers who have been with her from the start and many have grown to be like family. She said if given the chance to go back and start over, there’s very little, if anything, she would change.
“I would probably do the same thing all over again,” she said. “I thoroughly love people, and I love making them happy.”