She Fled China’s Cultural Revolution, Now Her NYC Chinatown Jewelry Shop is a Rapper’s Delight
By Carl Samson
September 6, 2017
On 255B Canal St., New York City sits a jewelry store frequented by hip-hop artists for its premium material and exceptional craftsmanship.
Popular Jewelry Inc., established in 1988, is owned by Chiokva “Eva” Sam.
Sam’s family fled China during the Cultural Revolution, when Mao Zedong called on the youth to purge “impure” elements in Chinese society to realign the nation with communist ideals. Beginning in August 1966, the revolution brought the death of around 1.5 million people, while millions of others were imprisoned, seized of property, tortured and humiliated.
Sam was then born in Macau, and soon, the family moved to the United States. It was on October 3, 1988 when Sam borrowed $100,000 from her brother to sign a lease and opened what would be the rapper-favorite jewelry store in NYC’s Chinatown today.
In 1989, Cappadonna of the Wu-Tang Clan became the first rapper to visit the store, which has since been decorated with Polaroid photos of popular patrons and frequent customers — from businessmen to police officers to rappers. Sam is almost always present in every picture.
Beyoncé, Ceelo, Elephant Man, Macklemore and Tracy Morgan are just few of the names who have rocked jewelry from the store.
It was A$AP Rocky, however, who seemed to be the store’s ambassador, having spent the most money — together with the rest of the A$AP Mob — and making a reference in his 2015 song called “Canal St”.
Interestingly, A$AP Rocky was also born on Oct. 3, 1988 — the day Sam signed the store’s lease.
William, Sam’s son who helps out with the business, told HYPEBEAST in July:
“When A$AP Rocky first came to the shop, she didn’t know exactly who he was. But Eva knew he was very fashionable and probably someone who was noteworthy, judging by the mink coat that he placed on the jewelry counter. She didn’t exactly listen to hip-hop music, so she asked him to write his stage name down on a piece of paper, so she could show it to me when she got home.”
As a hip-hop fan himself, William created a Spotify playlist titled “Popular Jewelry Radio,” which features music from the store’s clients.
Today, Popular Jewelry continues to serve customers with fine jewelry — diamonds, gold, platinum, sterling silver. But there’s really more to these that the store offers — and it explains why it’s not surprising to see that business is booming in this homey space of Chinatown.
“It’s our top-notch quality service. Everyone that comes in to shop with us is treated like family. We have a reasonable price, and we work with the customer’s budget. We also pay close attention to our client’s needs and desires when it comes to the jewelry,” William translated for his mother.
He added, “Artists in particular, expect that kind of attention to detail when they’re purchasing jewelry because whatever they wear reflects their brand and is highly scrutinized.”
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