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Dad’s Mentorship Draws Daughter Into Pennsylvania Family Business

Third-generation jeweler fine-tunes her aspirations.

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Founded in 1949 in Millersburg, PA, Leitzel’s Jewelry of Myerstown, PA, and Leitzel’s Jewelry on Chocolate in Hershey, PA, are owned by third-generation jeweler Allison Leitzel Williams and her husband, Trevor Williams. Although Allison grew up helping her dad, Ceylon Leitzel, in his jewelry store, she dreamed of becoming a teacher. “I began my college career as an education major, but quickly realized that the courses lacked the energy and passion I expected.” At that point, her dad suggested she major in business, which would offer many career opportunities, including the option to join the family business. She commuted home every weekend to work with him, changed her major to business management and enrolled in GIA distance education courses. “I am thankful for my college degree, but the time I spent working during college was invaluable,” she says. “I was able to work alongside my father as my mentor, gain work experience and learn valuable skills.”

TRAVEL INSPIRES. Beautiful new places, architecture and nature always provoke jewelry design ideas and color inspiration.

MY JEWELER. Leitzel’s Jewelry has a long-standing reputation as our community’s trusted jeweler. It is rewarding to hear our community refer to Leitzel’s as “my jeweler.”

CULTIVATE THE CULTURE. Listen to your employees. Know there is more than one way to do something right and empower them. If you have a great culture, they will do great things for you.

SHINE BRIGHT. As parents, Trevor and I encourage our children to “shine bright,” and we do our best to model that in our business and personal lives. I hope they grow up valuing small business, hard work and making family a priority.

Q&A with Allison Leitzel Williams

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Did you always know you’d join the family business?

I grew up helping my dad in our jewelry store and appreciating how hard he worked. I did all the typical childhood jobs from cleaning glass cases to labeling direct mailers and even pricing jewelry at our kitchen table. However, it never crossed my mind to pursue the business as my career. I grew up dreaming of becoming a teacher. I always found space to curate my own desk and classroom where I would pretend to teach.

Why (and when) did you decide to shift your career aspirations?

I began my college career as an education major, but quickly realized that the courses lacked the energy and passion I expected. While I value continuous learning and challenges, I was not looking forward to a career that valued college coursework over time spent in the classroom. It was only then that my dad suggested I consider majoring in business, which would provide many career opportunities, including the option to join the family business. I commuted home every weekend to work in our family business, changed my major to business management and enrolled in GIA distance education courses. I am thankful for my college degree, but the time I spent working during college was invaluable. I was able to work alongside my father as my mentor, gain work experience and learn valuable skills for work ethic.

How do you and your husband work together? Do you divide responsibilities?

I like to think that my husband, Trevor, and I have a great working relationship. He is my biggest supporter. Growing our business to two locations allows us to run the business together, but maintain our own focus. We rely on each other’s strengths and utilize them to benefit the business. Kate Peterson was a friend and mentor to us. She provided a DISC assessment that helped us understand our personality and communication styles, but more importantly, how to collaborate our styles to work best together.

Where do you find inspiration and motivation for your work?

I find inspiration in nature, architecture and with my family. My family reminds me of why I do what I do, and the gift we give people by helping them celebrate with lasting, meaningful heirlooms. I enjoy traveling with my husband and family. Beautiful new places, architecture and nature always provoke jewelry design ideas and color inspiration.

Describe Leitzel’s reputation in the communities that you serve.

Leitzel’s Jewelry has a long standing reputation as our community’s trusted jeweler. It is rewarding to hear our community refer to Leitzel’s as “my jeweler.” But more importantly, we are known for being present, being involved and giving back to our community. As parents, Trevor and I encourage our children to “shine bright” and we do our best to model that in our business and personal lives.

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What advice do you have for next-generation jewelers who want to make the family business their career?

My advice to next generation jewelers are to value the guidance of your mentor or predecessor, maintain constant communication about your roles and plan, and don’t be afraid to change the plan. People and businesses, ideally, are constantly growing and maturing. Your relationship and business plan should evolve with you.

How do you balance home and work life, especially during the holidays?

This is a constant mission and struggle, especially as a mom. I find that communication, accepting help and being open help me achieve balance. I strive to help my children learn, even at a young age, about the value and work ethic that is poured into a small business. I hope they grow up valuing small business, hard work and making family a priority.

What is the key to creating a culture of cooperation within your organization?

Listen to your employees. Know there is more than one way to do something right and empower them. If you have a great culture, they will do great things for you.

Over the years, INSTORE has won 80 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at editor@instoremag.com.

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