Two longtime friends reflect on opening their dream store
By Hannah Lee | Photography by John Michael Simpson
When Elie Abou-Rjeileh and Jack Daoud cut the ribbon stamped with The Chamber for a Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro logo on it, it finally kicked in. This store, Olmaz Jewelers, was theirs – and no one else’s. They looked up laughing toward the camera, standing alongside Mayor Pam Hemminger and Chamber President & CEO Aaron Nelson during their grand opening at Eastgate Crossing in November 2019. Both say nothing can or will compare to what they felt in that moment.
“That was, to me, a big deal,” Elie says. “Jack and I had worked so hard for five years nonstop, even when we had other jobs. Even on our days off, we would go and work on building this business. And we put everything into it – everything we had and didn’t have.”
After working for more than 15 years in the jewelry business, employed by the same family but at different stores in Lansing, Michigan, Elie and Jack knew exactly what they wanted. This included planting roots in a similarly buzzing college town. The business partners and longtime friends didn’t want a traditional jewelry store with dark carpet and shadowy showcases. Every element, from the polished concrete floor with its copper and silver tones to the midcentury modern chandelier, is meant to hint at a different kind of shopping experience. Even the flower arrangement at the center of the room is put together by Jack himself. Elie and Jack pride themselves on personalizing the store specifically for this area.
Of course, the shop wouldn’t be complete without assistance from a few local partners. Much of the light, airy space was crafted by Chris Burgin Designs, and the clean logo and website can be credited to The Splinter Group. Jack and Elie’s accountant is just a short drive down the road. They’ve been nothing short of grateful to the community, especially during the pandemic. “I love going to work,” Elie says. “I love working with customers. It’s a happy business. People are here to celebrate beautiful moments, and we’re here to help them do it.” So the owners can’t help but take a step back to appreciate that fateful day on Nov. 21, 2019, when family and friends from as far as Michigan and as near as Durham traveled here to clink cocktail glasses among the community who had gathered to celebrate them instead of the other way around.