“Harrisonburg and downtown have been good to me, so there is not a better place to put my investment and donation money.” This sums up the philosophy of James McHone, a successful downtown business owner and supporter of many community causes.
James was born in Harrisonburg and grew up in the area attending Harrisonburg city schools. He graduated from James Madison University (then Madison College) and came within 6 hours of receiving an MBA from JMU. So how did James become interested in antique jewelry?
Due to his father’s health situation, when he was a youngster, James’s family spent time each year in Hot Springs, Arkansas for his father to receive treatment. In order to keep James occupied but safe, he was given $5 and allowed to visit the area of town known as “Antique Row.” With the money, he bought bargain gifts for his mother. While still in high school, he expanded to purchasing items from yard sales and selling them for a profit.
The roots of James McHone Jewelry can be traced back to these childhood experiences in Arkansas and Harrisonburg. The store specializes in antique jewelry, particularly diamonds and engagement rings. James also purchases gold and estate items, and the shop offers GIA appraisals, custom design, resets, and repairs. His client base includes many local professionals and residents, and his largest customer base is local college students. James says there is less competition in antique jewelry, and the market is remarkably consistent.
Summing up his business philosophy, James says, “I try to treat people like I want to be treated.” He uses no sales pressure and prefers to offer customers information about an item and allow them to make their own decisions. He finds his most effective advertising is in the Massanutten Villager and the JMU Breeze. One unique marketing tool is the shop’s $100 giveaway. JMU students receive notice in the Breeze when and where a store representative will be on campus, and a lucky student seen wearing a James McHone t-shirt will be awarded a $100 bill. This promotion has become so popular, it was voted a “Top 100 Reason to Attend JMU.”
James McHone Jewelry, located at 75 Court Square, opened 29 years ago in 1983 when James purchased the building. James says he was drawn to downtown because of its safety and friendly people. Since that time, he has purchased several other downtown properties, including the Bank of America building next door. Over the last few years, James has observed the progress with downtown revitalization, and he feels this has made his investment in downtown real estate a wise decision.
As James looks toward the future of downtown, he is very “bullish” and optimistic. He is amazed at how well downtown businesses have weathered the recent economic challenges, and he sees more retail shops coming to downtown, as well as more parking decks, new construction, and perhaps a hotel/conference center.
Eddie Bumbaugh is the Executive Director of Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance.