Originally from Savannah, Caleb Harkleroad is proud to continue the family business, tradition, and heritage in the town he loves best.
“My father went to Benedictine and graduated in the class of 1984,” Harkleroad said. “He started a jewelry repair business shortly after. He was just a small repair operation doing other people’s repair work and stuff for other jewelry stores. A lot of people in town might remember how he had a kind of cubicle at the back of Welsh Pawn Shop.”
Over the decades, Harkleroad Jewelers has grown into one of the largest stores in town, now under Caleb’s direction.
“We’re as local as it gets,” he said with a chuckle. Harkleroad is proud of his Irish heritage, never more so than being involved with Savannah St. Patrick’s Day Committee.
“I joined the parade committee when I came home from the seminary. I had been involved a little bit before I left and I was happy to get back into it. It’s our community. I enjoy being involved as I’ve always had a proclivity toward my Irish heritage.”
Sitting in his office on Abercorn and Eisenhower, Harkleroad is surrounded by shiny pins, baubles, and large medallions. He proudly holds up a few items which will be worn in the upcoming parade.
“We just cast a bunch of new grand marshal medals, chairman medals, and all sorts of things like shillelagh pins. A few years ago, we designed the grand marshal’s ring, which was something new. The grand marshal here in Savannah is a great honor and tradition. Ultimately, the day belongs to a Saint Patrick, but the grand marshal has the privilege of representing our community in a special way,” he explained.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Savannah—like most cities around the United States—has not hosted the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Having the parade on the streets again is something Harkleroad said the city deserves.
“Having the parade back is so special for the families who have been doing this for almost 200 years. It’s such a meaningful day,” he said. “St. Patrick’s Day is kind of the end of our celebration, though. We will actually gather [this weekend] to elect the current grand marshal. It’s always a special day that kind of kicks our season off with many events leading up to the parade of March 17.”
With an influx of visitors to The Hostess City, Harkleroad advises locals and tourists alike is “to go somewhere local on St. Patrick’s Day after the parade and support a local business. Many downtown businesses make their entire year off of these coming weekends, so please shop local, support local, and leave the city better than you found it,” he stressed.
Even as a lifetime local, Caleb still finds things about this city that surprise him.
“Take it all in,” Caleb said of the Irish festivities. “There’s kind of a richness that is more than just a parade. there’s something different about Savannah. Savannah has so much to offer, so folks should come and take it all in and then make plans to come back again next year.”
As a native, he loves to hear one thing in particular. “My favorite thing when people visit Savannah is when you talk to them afterward and ask how their experience was, you’ll probably hear them say, ‘I had no idea. I just had no idea Savannah had all this offer—whether it’s the St. Patrick’s Day parade or just experiencing our incredible food and beverage scene.”
Harkleroad would certainly know about Savannah’s gems… well, this time, the hidden ones.
“With all the city’s hospitality offerings, there are many hidden gems in Savannah, including the city itself. Unfortunately, our city is getting less hidden… obviously because of the great work of Visit Savannah and people like that who are working hard to get groups, families, and visitors here.”
When asked about some of his favorite things about Savannah, he had more than one comment.
He noted, “That’s a tough question because there are so many great spots in town to go eat, have a drink, or meet up. Even as someone who’s been here my whole life, I’m constantly still discovering places.. Adding, “I think the serenity of walking downtown through the squares like on a weekday—not necessarily when things are crazy busy—just contemplating and taking things in.”
For date night with his fiancée, Cori Herring, he shared, “We love going to Madame Butterfly. We’ve gone several times and it’s really cool. We enjoy having the Korean barbecue upstairs. Then, we always slip into O’Connell’s. That’s my end of the bargain,” he continued, “to go there for a few pints. If you want a genuine Irish pub, O’Connell’s is the place to go get your pour on.”
Harkleroad’s participation in the Irish community isn’t limited to his involvement with the parade. He is also a founding member of the Savannah Gaelic Athletic Association.
“We were founded in February, 2020 playing the Irish national sports of hurling and Gaelic ball. We have our big tournament coming up [March 5th] at Scarborough Sports Complex, right next to Cohen’s Retreat. We’ll have three teams coming in for a full day of hurling and Gaelic football. The after-party will be at Molly MacPherson’s on Congress for those people that survived,” he said with nervous laughter.
“It’ll be a great day of games. If you want to see something that’s probably the coolest sports you never knew existed, I recommend coming out to Scarborough Sports Complex on the 5th.”
Most of all, he wishes everyone a safe and fun St. Patrick’s Day.