To stay afloat after the recession, local family-run jewelry stores have focused on long-term customer relationships and helping new and existing customers celebrate the important milestones in their lives. Here are four examples of family-owned jewelry stores that weathered the economic storm.
305 Bellevue Way NE, Bellevue
Steven Goldfarb is a second-generation jeweler on his father’s side and a fifth-generation jeweler on his mother’s side. The subject of jewelry dominated family dinners when he was a kid. It was almost a given that he would join the business. After attending the University of Washington, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), and working for another jewelry store, he finally joined his dad in the family business.
“Dad” was Alvin Goldfarb, who in 1980 bucked the in-mall jewelry store trend and opened a stand-alone shop on Bellevue Way Northeast. He was 10 years ahead of the curve. By the 1990s, the popularity of freestanding jewelry stores was on the rise.
“My dad was a visionary,” Steven Goldfarb says.
Alvin Goldfarb has since retired, leaving Steven to run the show. The store has gone through multiple remodels, and currently features a 2,000-square-foot showroom with business offices upstairs. One legacy remains from Alvin’s era, though: The store is closed on Sundays.
“My mother insisted on being closed on Sundays, because my dad would work otherwise,” Goldfarb says. “Mom’s rules.”
Like other family-owned jewelers, the store’s focus is on relationships and customer service. Alvin Goldfarb cultivated a loyal clientele, and now Steven is carrying on that tradition by serving the adult children of Alvin’s clients.
Goldfarb says giving customers the attention they deserve and upholding a reputation of trustworthiness, honesty, and longevity is the reason the business has remained strong.
“I’ve been here a long time,” Goldfarb says. “It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but the guy that’s been around for a while is likely the guy that’s going to be around for a while.”
3500 Factoria Blvd. SE, Bellevue
The story of how Dacels Jewelers came to be is a bit different than that of most jewelry stores.
David and Celeste Michael started Dacels (the “Da” stands for David; “cel” is for Celeste) in 1978 with two stores, one in Bellevue and the other tucked inside a furniture store in Kent. With three small children at home in Bellevue, the Michaels found it difficult to keep both stores open, so they decided to close the Kent store in 1984 to focus on the Bellevue location. The store is still in its original Factoria Village building, and it gobbled up other tenants’ storefronts as they vacated.
With David serving as the jewelry and gem expert and Celeste acting as the buyer and bookkeeper, the couple has built a successful family business to pass down to the next generation. Son Ryan, who trained at GIA as his father did, joined the business 15 years ago.
“Being a family jeweler, you want (a successor) going forward,” says Celeste.
Most of Dacels’ products are fine jewelry items, including colored gemstones, diamond jewelry, and custom items. Celeste considers Dacels’ custom work most exciting because it is an opportunity to collaborate with customers to bring their vision to life.
Ryan had such an opportunity last Christmas when he helped design an exquisite six-carat diamond engagement ring with a platinum band for the son of a longtime customer. The ring featured more than 150 round and pear-shaped diamonds and custom engraving. The price tag: well into six figures.
“We are a family business, and we are there for all of our customers’ milestones,” Celeste says. “Custom work is really our forte.”
814 S. Third St., Renton
Imagine shopping in the 1950s, when you could walk through the downtown area of any American city and window shop. Clothing stores would have their mannequins dressed with the latest items, and jewelry stores would have their beautiful diamonds and exquisite watches on display for passersby to gawk at.
Those show-off storefront windows still exist today at Garland Jewelers, a store that has lived in the same downtown Renton building since 1954 and is a relic of that almost-bygone era.
Jack Slotnik purchased the store in 1953, and son Gary now runs Garland Jewelers. Gary Slotnik grew up in the store, cleaning cases and polishing silver during the summer and holiday breaks from school. Slotnik initially didn’t plan to go into the jewelry business. He was an architect for years, but when his dad decided to retire, he rethought his plan. He took over the jewelry store in 1985 and has been selling, repairing, and appraising fine jewelry since.
Slotnik’s greatest challenge is turning those window shoppers into customers. The store has adapted to its environment by offering custom pieces such as Seattle Seahawks-inspired earrings and pendants, revamping its website, and upgrading its marketing and advertising strategies while maintaining an old-school feel in the shop.
Perhaps the most successful of Garland’s marketing strategies is its exclusive events, such as its invitation-only brunch. The events sometimes draw more than 100 people, and those attendees are treated with elegant meals, prize drawings, and special promotions.
“Giving customers a reason to patronize an independent store like ours is a constant challenge,” says Slotnik. “But we like challenges.”
10575 NE 12th St., Bellevue
Owner Jill Lewis has jewelry in her blood. She worked in her parents’ jewelry store during college, attended the GIA in California, and then went to Europe to study jewelry design.
In 1997, Lewis branched out on her own, starting in a 500-square-foot office where she served clients by appointment only. “It was the best decision I ever made,” Lewis says.
Lewis’ business outgrew several storefronts, and eventually ended up in its current downtown Bellevue location. The 2,500-square-foot store features a showroom, offices, and space for the creation of custom jewelry.
Lewis, who works alongside her husband and her daughter, takes pride in offering pieces customers can’t find elsewhere — 80 percent of merchandise in the store is custom-made. Whether a client wants a unique wedding band or a refurbished family heirloom, the store can handle it. Lewis is seeing a growing demand for these types of custom pieces.
“People are getting more open-minded and creative. Now anything goes,” she says. “Mix it, match it, be creative, and don’t be afraid to wear it!”
Lewis is so intent on customer comfort that her store includes a “man cave” with a stocked refrigerator and big-screen TV perfect for football fans wanting to catch the game while their wives shop.
“Men love it. It makes them feel like they’ve walked into a friend’s home,” Lewis says. “We’re here to provide a service, but also to create lasting relationships.”
Lewis says location is an important part of her company’s success. “We’ve watched Bellevue evolve with Google, Microsoft, Expedia, and Eddie Bauer,” she says. “We’re very blessed to have the clientele we have.”