Diamonds Direct is one of the top 10 companies by votes in Columbus CEO's 2020 Best of Business readers' poll.

Most customers who walk into Diamonds Direct are in a good mood. “They’re going to get engaged, or they got a big promotion at work—they’ve got an anniversary coming up, a birthday,” says Vice President Tery Vari. “We get to share in that.”

After a long stay in Diamonds Direct’s Apex, North Carolina, store, Vari returned to Columbus in 2018 to open the local branch. “The empowerment that I have, and that I’m able to give everyone,” he says, “it’s more of an entrepreneurial environment.”

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Originally from Youngstown, Vari, 55, has been in the jewelry industry for 30 years, since graduating from Ohio State University. “I got my start working at Northland Mall, part-time,” he says. Eventually, while working 40 hours a week at a bank, his side hustle became his full-time gig. “I just kind of fell into jewelry,” he says.

From Top Golf outings to holiday parties, Vari puts effort into keeping the staff close. “I’m Italian. I talk fast; I move fast—and I’m big on family,” Vari says. “I try to keep everything fun and family oriented.”

Covid-19 certainly has introduced challenges for the Diamonds Direct sales associates. For one thing, everyone now wears masks. “That right there is another barrier that the sales person has with the customer that you have to get beyond,” Vari says. “You can’t shake hands, and it’s harder to build rapport.”

But the seven diamond experts (16 employees total) are pros, he says. That, plus additional perks—free jewelry maintenance, cleaning, sizing, and appraisal on all purchases—keeps customers coming back. “We do bring luxury and elegance, but we are a direct diamond importer,” meaning prices are more competitive without a middleman markup.

At the end of the day, most purchases surround a celebration. “Everybody’s just buzzing around here having fun,” Vari says. “It’s not just a job—they really love what they do.”

Virginia Brown is a freelance writer.