“There are times in one’s life when God truly lays out a path for you, and then there are times when he lays out a path, green lights, detour signs, and almost every kind of positive signal that you can receive to pursue something in your life. In those cases, you do yourself justice to listen.”
Cindy Webb is speaking from experience. She said the latter is what it took for her to take a leap of faith and open Francis M. Fine Jewelry in historic downtown Conway in August 2017. The business is named after her late father, Francis Marion (Frank) Hudson of Conway.
“It truly took my whole family’s help, lots of encouragement from friends and customers, lots of praying, and most importantly, the support of my husband, Donald Webb, to give me the strength and courage to open our own jewelry store,” she said. “I knew it would be a huge undertaking.”
Francis M. Fine Jewelry received the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2020 Business of the Year Award in the Outstanding Retailer category. Representing Francis M. Fine Jewelry are (from left) goldsmith Mark Lutz, owner Cindy Webb, Donald Webb, Whitney Glover, and Zoey Rofkahr.
Cindy Webb has been in the fine jewelry business since 1993. The Conway native is a graduate of the University of Central Arkansas, where she obtained a degree in Speech Communication. She received a scholarship from Jewelers of America to begin her studies in gemology and earned a Graduate Gemologist degree from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in 1996.
“I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work in a 100-year-old family jewelry store in Conway for 20 years. I was also very fortunate to have the opportunity to work for Roberson’s Fine Jewelry in Little Rock and as the fine jewelry buyer for Barbara/Jean LTD also in Little Rock,” Webb said.
“Conway is my home; I was born here, was raised here, and have always lived here. But I believe the time away from my comfort zone in Conway truly gave me the opportunity to learn new sales techniques, get new education opportunities, and travel and meet new friends within the fine jewelry business. Without that experience, I don’t think I would have had the skills and confidence it takes to run a business on my own.”
Webb took aspects from everything she knew to put the store together and make her vision a reality. That vision is a combination of what she describes as “what Elizabeth Taylor would have approved of and the overall experience one gets from watching the movie, ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s.’”
Webb wants her customers to feel at home upon entering Francis M. Fine Jewelry, so she has made the space at 804 Front Street as cozy as possible.
“Francis M. is not corporate at all,” she said. “On the contrary, we have design elements in our store from leopard-print carpet to chandeliers. Most importantly, we have a welcoming environment. We want our customers to feel like friends coming into our home and for everything they hear, smell, see, and touch to be luxurious and pleasant.”
With a background in party planning, Webb prioritizes the customer experience and believes those shopping for fine jewelry should get a more personal touch rather than having the feeling of entering a corporate environment.
“It should feel as if you are walking into our home, where naturally we are going to offer you refreshments and invite you into a place where the surroundings are soft and the scent of the showroom delicious. You will be welcomed with open arms as friends and not just as customers.”
The personal touch at Francis M. Fine Jewelry goes beyond the aesthetic. Webb and her staff often hand deliver repairs when a customer can’t make it to the store or deliver gifts to their homes or workplaces.
“We literally do whatever we can do for our customers because we think of them as family,” Webb said.
Although her party-planning days might be over, Webb believes every day is a party at Francis M. “That’s what it takes to separate brick-and-mortar stores from the internet; it’s the experience you have while purchasing that special jewelry piece,” she said. “It’s all about the experience.”
Francis M. Fine Jewelry is a designer boutique, an idea that was a first for Conway. The store concentrates on highlighting designer jewelry like Konstantino, Jude Frances, Pyrrha, Uneek by Benjamin Javaheri, Vincent Peach, Norman Covan, and many others. Webb and her friend, Nikki Burk, even launched their own designer line, Catherine Crown, in the fall of 2018, which they sell at Francis M.
“We enjoy seeking out designers from all over the world and bringing them to our friends in Conway,” Webb said.
In addition to the designer jewelry shopping experience, Francis M. offers on-site jewelry repair, custom jewelry design, jewelry appraisals, coin evaluations, watch battery installations and watch band adjustments, privative engagement ring consultations, in-house financing, and more. The friendly and professional staff – Cindy and Donald Webb, Whitney Glover, Mark Lutz, Hannah Laws, and Nikki Burk – all have years of experience and love adding a bit of fun and lots of enjoyment to the customer experience at Francis M. They also have an active board of directors that offers guidance and advice.
Cindy and Donald Webb live in Conway with their three adopted cats: Jonesy, The General, and Big Sam. The couple are members at Fellowship Bible Church. As lifelong Conway residents, they place a high importance on giving back to the place they call home.
Francis M. Fine Jewelry was named Favorite Jewelry Store by the readers of WINC magazine. Pictured here are owners Cindy and Donald Webb.
“We love this community and try to give back and support it as much as we can. We have several nonprofits that we work with regularly, including Alzheimer’s Arkansas, Renewal Ranch, Haven, CARTI, Boys and Girls Club of Faulkner County, Children’s Advocacy Alliance, Conway Symphony Orchestra, and many others.
Webb recalled a story that encapsulates her commitment to providing the highest-quality customer service (although not in a literal sense):
“According to a popular story, Ronald Reagan called the Animal Kingdom pet shop at Harrods, a luxury department store in London, and asked if they sold elephants. The agent on the line replied, ‘Would that be African or Asian, sir?’”