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A 72-Year-Old Jewelry Store’s Farewell Letter to the Millennials Who Just Don’t Understand

It’s a plea for patience, humility and a bit of appreciation for the old ways.

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Growing up in the store: Eddie Guerboian holds his son, Avedis Guerboian, at the family’s jewelry store.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published at INSTORE Online on June 27, 2016. We are highlighting it again because it was one of our most popular articles ever.

The following is a letter from Avedis Guerboian of Readers Fine Jewelry in Santa Monica, CA, posted on social media and on the store’s website. The 72-year-old store closed its doors for the last time on Saturday, June 25, 2016.

Us: Welcome to Readers Fine Jewelers!

Millennial: “Hi, I heard the news, we are so sad to see you go ….”

Us: “Thank you, we appreciate that, How can we assist you?”

Millennial: “Well, I bought this engagement ring online, and I’ve read lots of great things about you. Can you please verify this diamond for me and would you be able to adjust the finger size?”

This is the new norm — every day, at least five times a day, people walking in or calling the store after buying jewelry online and asking for our trustworthy service. Clearly, they are wary of purchasing online, but they don’t want to spend the extra money to buy from a reputable long-time family business.

Who is to blame for this? Is it a bad thing? What’s the bright side to all of this?

Well, I blame the millennials for what is inevitably the end of an era of “mom and pop/brick and mortar” style stores. Apparently, at 33 years old, I am a member of this generation and I have mixed feelings about it. Before I continue, I believe everyone needs to work a retail, food or customer service job at least at some point in their lives. If they did so, the world would be a better place.

Now, moving on to my point.

Personally, I have worked all aspects of retail, except food service (and I can only imagine how much patience is needed for that industry). I have even worked in “big box” retail stores. Working for my family business has its ups and downs and the grass is always greener on the other side. But the biggest difference is the reward. America started out with family businesses. Kids working with their parents, learning the trade, learning work ethic, learning how to be a decent person, learning the value of a dollar. This has become a rarity nowadays and something very underappreciated.

The challenging part about working for your family is seeing how hard your parents work to keep a business thriving. Having to rely on yourself to pay the bills. Having to manage staff and cashflow and keeping customers happy. Having to always put your best foot forward, because one simple Yelp review from an uptight hipster millennial could affect your reputation. Seeing your parents working harder than any millennial will ever work in their entire lives, all because they have passion for what they do and truly care about the customer.

Especially immigrant parents.

This is where I get angry when I see the next generation — my generation — not understand the value of what our parents built. There seems to be a sense of entitlement by the millennials that is absolutely unearned. Who the heck are you to believe you are entitled to anything?

You’re probably thinking, I’m being too harsh on millennials. No, I’m not. I’m speaking from my perspective of dealing with millennials, of being a millennial.

We are the smartest and laziest generation to date. We’ve been able to invent and use technology that could have only been dreamed of few years ago. Yet, with this technology, it has made us completely lazy and impatient towards the generation before us, the generation that busted their ass to allow us this luxury.

Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit and the internet bring us access to everything in seconds. Amazon brings you the cheapest prices for retail, Reddit brings you instant news and Facebook keeps you “connected”.

But, like my dad says, “it’s all bulls**t”. All of this social media, all of this instant gratification and cheap online prices are bulls**t.

Business back in my parents’ day was done based on trust, relationships and true customer service. Having to actually speak to another human being to purchase something. Building a relationship with an expert in that industry.

Now, it’s all about how fast, cheap and better can you get it for. Feeling like because you Googled it or watched a YouTube video on it, you know better than the business owner. I keep hearing that the internet “democratized” this industry, and gave power to the consumer. Well, the consumer isn’t always right. The internet isn’t always right. You didn’t put 10,000 hours in a business to know the craft. You’re not suddenly an expert on diamonds because you saw a certificate online and read about it on Wikipedia.

The world is changing so fast that before you can adjust to a change, you’re already too late. Hundreds of our customers have been pouring into our store, expressing how sad they are to see us go. Sharing all their stories of how connected they felt with my family business and my dad because they’ve purchased a gift from us for a special occasion. It truly is heartwarming and bittersweet to know that so many people care. People who have never purchased anything are walking in to say goodbye. Who does that?

Readers Fine Jewelers was established in Santa Monica 72 years ago. My dad came to America at 17 years old, just after his father passed away. He ended up in Santa Monica and worked for Readers Fine Jewelers before becoming the owner of it for 40 years. To think about the longevity of doing business and owning a retail store for 40 years is pretty phenomenal. It’s proof that he has withstood all the challenges to be a successful business. It’s proof that giving back to your community pays off. Donating your time and money for all the service organizations is priceless. Knowing that he built a business that brought joy to so many people is rewarding.

Now, we face an evolution in how retail business is being conducted. Especially in the jewelry world, millennials are buying products in a new way. The internet has changed everything. It has essentially put the consumer in control and there is no way to fight it. We spent months, almost a full year analyzing the direction of our business model before making this tough decision. It is time for us to evolve with the trend of how consumers purchase products.

Of course, there is a bright side to all of this. And that is the opportunity to reach many many more people. I’ve been fortunate enough to design some amazing and unique custom jewelry that is allowing me to follow my dream. This is not the end of our family business, but a passing of the torch, as we move onto a new chapter. It is a time for us to celebrate my parents and what many call a “legacy” in Santa Monica. My parents have done business here for so long, they’ve been able to see three generations of clients.\

Can you imagine owning a business and seeing your customers, their kids and their grandkids?

My point with this message is, I hope the millennials will start seeing what it’s like on the other side. Since I am an older member of this generation, I’ve been able to see what it’s like. We need to appreciate what the mom-and-pop, brick-and-mortar businesses did for us. We need to stop staring at our stupid phones for a minute and look up at people, smile and shake hands. Be patient when your parents ask you how to use Facebook. Understand that not every product you order needs to show up the next day and not every activity you engage in requires a photo to be posted about it immediately. We need to try and find a balance with all this amazing technology and bring a little patience back to our lives.\

I am excited for what the future holds, and I am beyond proud of my parents Eddie and Evelyn Guerboian.

As we are nearing that last days of Readers Fine Jewelers, I want to thank all of you for your kind notes, well wishes and final purchases. I want to thank my amazing wife Christina Guerboian for coming in on her days off to help, my sisters Natalie Guerboian and Nicole Guerboian for taking time off from their jobs, and our dear friends Rob Schwenker and Lisa Gumenick for the extra help on Saturdays. Thanks to my mamik, a.k.a. Grandma, a.k.a. Mrs. G, for all the baklava! I want to congratulate my parents on sustaining one of the longest family-owned businesses in Santa Monica and one of the oldest jewelry stores in America. I hope to create a legacy half as remarkable as theirs.

There are countless friends and colleagues that have given us support through all this and I am ever so grateful for them. This has been an amazing experience.

Our last day here is Saturday, June 25, 2016 and we hope to see you all one more time.

Thank you!

P.S. One final life tip: Don’t walk into any retail store three minutes before closing, say you’re “just looking” and keep them open late. Be kind to the staff. Everyone has had a rough day.

 

Avedis Guerboian is the sixth generation of his family to work in the family jewelry store. He was raised in the jewelry world, with a specialty in custom design. Formerly working with Iridesse (a subsidiary of Tiffany & Co.), he has a passion for designing and freehand sketching, specifically Batman. In his career, he has created custom pieces for celebrities, such as Hank Azaria, Bryan Cranston, Ben Affleck and Bob Iger.

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