Kasuba and his wife, Kathleen Flynn-Kasuba (black dress), and daughter Bree (peach dress) and the rest of the staff of M. Edward Jewelers -- Barbara Armata (print dress), Carol Manfredo (light top, black skirt) along with Riley, the store mascot.
What they lacked in starting funds, Mark and Kathleen Kasuba more than made up for with resourcefulness.
They hatched a plan to open in the Berkshire region of Massachusetts and “spent many hours driving U-Hauls from Maine to Boston to NYC and back again picking up used cases and equipment to furnish the store,” Mark Kasuba recalls. A set of grand old solid oak cases scored during those days is still in use inside M. Edward Jewelers, a 2,500-square-foot space that offers a full range of services including custom design, estate sales and watch repair.
The store is marking the milestone with sales, events, stickers, mugs and a plan to tie in with a group celebrating “all things 1986.”
Mark Kasuba talked with us about his three decades in business.
Please tell us how your store got its start.
We started very modestly in 1986. Having worked five years for two local jewelers during high school and college, my wife Kathleen and I put a plan together to open M. Edward Jewelers. We spent many hours driving U-Hauls from Maine to Boston to NYC and back again, picking up used cases and equipment to furnish the store. I felt like we struck gold when I noticed a small classified ad in the Boston Globe for used jewelry cases. A 50-year-old store in the jewelers building in downtown Boston was replacing handmade solid oak cases with modern pressboard versions. Our challenge was 20 of them needed to be out within a week, down a fire escape and driven through the maze of Boston chaos and back to the Berkshires. For $750 we took the challenge and are still using the same (refinished) cases today — antiques really! We opened for business in Lenox, MA, and 10 years later moved to a higher traffic location in Pittsfield, MA. We lease 2,500 square feet as a full-service jeweler offering everything from custom design and estate jewelry to jewelry and watch repair. Our staff is full GIA educated.
Was there ever a time when it looked as if the business may not survive?
Never. I am appreciative of the fact that this industry is tied to the global commodities markets. I think that the spike in metals prices during the last recession kept many jewelers steady with a different “type” of business and probably kept some in business.
What has been the key to the store’s growth and longevity?
Hiring, keeping and educating a committed sales staff and treating them with the same respect that we all seek. They really are an amazing group and we’re in an industry of celebrating life’s greatest moments — how could we miss?
Have there been any vendors who have been particularly important to the store’s success?
Many. We have been members of IJO (20-plus years) and RJO (10-plus years) and the networking of vendors and retailers has been invaluable.
What have all those years in the business taught your family about jewelry retail?
Our three children are 29, 28 and 23 that have all worked in the business from quite young ages through college. They totally get the time commitment to make a small family business successful. It has also provided them with fabulous opportunities to travel and learn about the many facets of our industry by attending trade shows as a family.
What’s your favorite True Tale from your years in the business?
We sponsor a spring clean up of a local rail trail for biking and walking and were pleased to see our esteemed governor join us for an hour (great guy by the way!). He found me raking and thanked my staff and I for organizing the volunteers. As we chatted he shared that he and his wife would be celebrating their 30th anniversary next week. I suggested a strand of Tahitian Pearls. He looked at me with a smile and said Tahiti was where they had honeymooned 30 years ago. We met privately the following morning before he left for Boston over coffee, my wife’s homemade banana bread and some beautiful pearls!
What has the latest generation of owners brought to the business?
Some of us are stuck in the 90s with technology however there seems to be some interest from the next generation to fix this! All I can say is thank you and please stop speaking with hashtags!
What’s next for M. Edwards?
Keep rolling and continue to celebrate life’s great events with our customers.
This article is an online extra for INSTORE Online.
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