Monday, December 10, 2018

Going, Going, Gone?

ALL THAT GLITTERS


Did you ever have a favorite place, like a restaurant, bar or coffee shop for example, when your every visit was always a comfortable and enjoyable experience and suddenly without warning it’s gone forever?

The loss is a painful experience; I felt that pain when the German-built glocke bar at the Bavarian Inn ended up in a dumpster and was no more.

Time brings change and change can be a good thing or it can be a bad thing. In my case it’s mixed feelings.

I’m convinced the jewelry business will never be the same as it was as little as 10 years ago. I tried releasing all my negative thoughts and kept a positive attitude. I even redesigned my showroom and workshop a couple of times.

At one point a few years ago I was forced to downgrade my finer merchandise. Many jewelers had to do some moving and shaking also! Even Tiffany was on the ropes for a while there after 2008! The bottom line… most jewelers had to lower their standards by replacing the high end with borderline “affordable jewelry” in order to survive.

One has to carry what the public wants and can afford, any retailer will tell you that. Only that philosophy rubs me the wrong way when it comes to jewelry. I have been making and selling fine quality jewelry my whole life and having to resort to “affordable quality” just puts what little grey hair I have on end!

But honestly folks, the price of gold had been killing me softly too. A hundred customers a week want this and they want that; you tell them how much it costs and watch them run out the door as if I set them on fire.

Making and creating “the good stuff” had become a difficult and complex problem for me… there is no such thing as reasonably priced quality made jewelry. With gold or platinum jewelry, the problem is the cost of such quality is way out of reach for the average Joe or maybe even un-average Joe. Most Joes simply don’t want to spend their hard earned money for a piece of bling to keep Mamma happy.

I was joking with a customer the other day how in present times most guys would rather take their woman’s wrath and sleep on the couch for a few nights than spring for a couple of grand on a pair of diamond earrings to smooth over things with the significant other.

Real reality is one thing and many jewelers will tell you that everything is fine and dandy but meanwhile the average jewelry ticket sales nationwide have been way down for several years. The 2017-2018 season was a very noticeable improvement for me. I have been up monthly for the last couple years, but the phrase “like pulling teeth” comes to mind when it came to making some of the better sales.

Recently, surveyed jewelers said holiday business was better than the last couple of years, some saw no increase in revenue whatsoever, or worse, less business. Add in the internet shoppers, and now some large jewelry chain stores are cutting their losses by downsizing or closing their stores completely.

Jewelry store closings and bankruptcies were at an all-time high the last five years in the good ole U.S. of A. Even now with the so-called new and improved economy, hundreds have closed just last month, and yes, even here on Marco Island, several jewelry stores have closed, never to return.

I adapted, adjusted, had to close two retail shops and changed again and again, and for a while there I felt like a boxer trapped in the corner of the ring absorbing a pummeling of never-ending down turned economic rights and uppercuts. First was the past devastating recession that resulted in skyrocketing gold prices, a sneaky blow to the side of the noggin; next a left cross to the nose (thank you B.P. oil spill); then a solid hit to the breadbox with two years of never-ending presidential election horse hockey; and when things seemed to be improving, an unexpected right cross to the chin with the gall darned fiscal cliff, and now the commie-connection! I landed face first in the center ring but kept bouncing up with my gloves held high… Only next I get smacked down by a total mall reconstruction with scaffolding and heavy equipment all over the place and then came howling Hurricane Irma last September. How much can one guy or any business endure?

So it’s now August 2018. Most of my cuts and bruises have healed and here I stand like a defiant Rocky Balboa, strong focused (and a little bit older), and still open for business.

And after all that, want to know something totally unexpected that happened? Last Christmas I trashed the cheap affordable “people’s jewelry” and focused on the really nice fine gold and diamond jewelry that I used to sell and create before 2008. I took a big chance, and put everything on the table and my head on the chopping block. I was all in!

Everything sold, and it sold well and it is still selling!

A few columns ago I joked about going into semi-retirement after doing what I have been doing for over 50 years, 25 of those years here on the island, so much to the dismay of my loving wife, my banker, my accountant and my friends at the IRS. At age 64, I now declare myself semi-retired!

I don’t expect any of my loyal customers mourn, wear black for the rest of their lives or walk uncaringly in to the surf at residence beach because of my announcement, but I have been a practicing goldsmith since I was 16 years old, only to be interrupted by serving my country in the U.S. Navy in the ‘70s.

Did I mention the 17 years I worked full time for the U.S. Postal Service, schlepping mail first in Salem, Massachusetts and then in Naples, Florida, while at the same time starting my present business on Front Street?

If those are not several good enough reasons to totally retire, I don’t know what are!

Put a fork in me, I’m done on one side, it’s time for me to take it slow and enjoy the fruits of my efforts and years of labor in this crazy rollercoaster business. That would mean I could actually use my canoe, fish in my boat and take long trips on my motorcycle and enjoy traveling even more. Besides, my “honey do” list is close to five pages by now.

Don’t worry, I will still be spending time in the shop, and will be available for private consultation by appointment. But I’m sorry, no more 70-hour work weeks for me. Eventually my jeweler’s torch and hammer will be handed down to another more than competent goldsmith… my son Andrew.

So when I finally and totally retire, hopefully in the near future, I can enjoy life and act like a tourist gone wild here on Marco.

Richard Alan is a designer/goldsmith and owner of The Harbor Goldsmith at Island Plaza and welcomes your questions about all that glitters. Contact him at 239-394-9275 or harborgoldsmith@comcast.net, or visit his informative website at www.harborgoldsmith.com.

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