Independents

David Ellis, Legendary Jewelry Salesman, Dies at 85

IndependentsJan 10, 2023

David Ellis, Legendary Jewelry Salesman, Dies at 85

He was remembered as a sharply dressed, quintessential southern gentleman with a talent for sales.

20230110_David Ellis.jpg
David Hollingsworth Ellis, a well-known jewelry salesman, died Dec. 28 following an illness.
Boone, N.C.—David Hollingsworth Ellis, a well-known jewelry industry salesman, died Dec. 28 following an illness.
 
He was 85.
 
Ellis was born on April 16, 1937 in Fayetteville, North Carolina to William Louis Ellis, Jr. and Elizabeth Ledbetter Ellis.
 
He was known as a “quintessential southern gentleman” with a “suave sophisticated demeanor,” as per his online obituary, but he treated everyone like family.
 
Ellis was a committed salesman, working for a variety of companies over his sixty-year career, including Citizen Watch and Frederick Goldman. 
 
His warmth, honesty, and kindness contributed to his success.
 
Debbie Kordansky, owner of DM Kordansky in Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania, first met Ellis at a trade show and they remained friends over the years.
 
She remembered him as a man of integrity and recalled his distinct uniform, which was a suit and tie with French cuffs.
 
“Some people would consider that archaic, but for him, it was a way to show respect for his position in the industry and show respect to the stores he entered, as well as commanding respect for him.”
 
His jewelry industry career was inspired by his older cousin, William E. Thunbergs, who was raised by Ellis’ mother and was like a brother to him. Thunbergs would go on to be a vice president at store Jewel Box in Virginia.
 
Ellis’ six-decade-long career in the jewelry industry began in his hometown of Fayetteville. He got his start as a teenager, sweeping floors and wrapping gifts at a local jewelry store.
 
He married his wife, Dawn Amber, in 1974. They would go on to work together in the jewelry industry for nearly 40 years while raising three children.
 
Ellis began selling watch bands, and later worked for Seiko Time and Longines.
 
Ellis also worked for Citizen Watch, helping to introduce the brand to the U.S. He was one of the first Americans in the Japanese company’s office, said Dawn.
 
He also worked with Frederick Goldman, overseeing the southeast region, and moving his family back to his home state of North Carolina.
 
It was a long career, said Dawn, but he made a lot of friends along the way.
 
“Everybody and their brother knows David Ellis. I can assure you of that,” she said.
 
In the late 1990s, the couple owned jewelry distributor D and D. They later opened retail store Jewel Trends in downtown Jefferson, North Carolina, specializing in custom pieces.
 
The pair was a dream team.
Ellis was the charming salesman tending to the customers while Dawn took care of the “ugly things,” like bookkeeping and collecting money. She had a background in sales and government, working for the North Carolina General Assembly with the House of Representatives.
 
“He was very charismatic,” she said of her husband. “He was honest, dependable, loyal, all of those wonderful things.”
 
Ellis prided himself on putting his customers first.
 
“His word was his bond. Every client will tell you that he was customer-driven. He lived for his customers. They were his life. And they all know it,” she said.
 
“You could call him day or night with whatever problem you had and he would solve it. He did it because he loved [his customers]. He loved the industry.”
 
They shut the boutique in 2016 after realizing they could make more money on the road than in traditional retail. 
 
Ellis, who never officially retired, and his wife traveled together on the road for the last 10 years.
 
That time in their lives, she said, was wonderful.
 
“We had a very unique relationship. He was my best friend. He was the love of my life. The reason our marriage worked is he would tell everyone that he loved me more than I loved him,” said Dawn.
 
“We were lucky enough to be in the glory days when salesmen helped other salesmen and jewelers helped other jewelers. We were a huge, wonderful family and, luckily, David was one of them that sat at the head of the table.”
 
He is survived by Dawn; his son, Michael Ellis and his fiancé Lisa Gunter; his daughter Audrey Elizabeth Ellis Pyon and her husband Sammy Pyon; his grandchildren and great-grandchildren; and his sister Eunice Louise Hodge. He was preceded in death by his son, David Hollingsworth Ellis, Jr.
 
There will not be a service but he was laid to rest at a family plot in Fayetteville. 
Lenore Fedowis the associate editor, news at National Jeweler, covering the retail beat and the business side of jewelry.

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