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Second Generation Steps Up Unexpectedly to Take Over

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Beth Guntzviller never imagined she’d retire at 65 to make space for her son & daughter to take over management of Miner’s North Jewelers in Traverse City, MI. As a kid, Jeff was busy with sports and never worked in the family store she owns with her husband, Wayne. Her daughter, Julie, went into teaching.

But after Jeff earned a business degree, he suddenly expressed interest. Within a couple of years, it was clear he was both serious about it and responsible enough to take over, sooner rather than later. “That’s when we decided he would be the one,” Beth says. “But it took a bit of time for that to happen.” Julie, too, left teaching to join the business.

When Jeff met Bobby Wilkerson and learned about the option of a retirement sale, the plan began to fall into place. Although Beth and her husband, Wayne, are still technically the store owners, Jeff makes the decisions now. Wayne works part-time on the bench and Beth fills in if needed. Beth and Wayne are giving Jeff and Julie shares to the business each year, at their accountant’s recommendation. 

This past December marked the first men’s night and the first ladies’ night Beth didn’t attend in more than 30 years.

“Jeff has taken my place at CBG and IJO, even being on the board,” Beth says. “He’s young. I can’t keep up with the ever-changing market. Customers are younger, too; they don’t want to buy a diamond from a grandma. There’s a whole different vitality to our store now.”
Jeff has rebuilt the inventory, bringing in more diamonds and more bridal and has begun selling 5-carat diamonds, something Beth never dreamed was possible in her market. He phased out the beads and other little gift items that had been a staple for years. Sales are up.
“The passion that Jeff has for the business is exciting. He lives and breathes it. The way he treats our staff and customers is amazing. He learned customer service from us and he is doing it even better than we did.”

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Jeff has become good friends and has great working relationships with the sons of vendors that Beth worked with; they speak the same language. “It’s a whole new way of doing business now,” Beth says.

“It’s really weird at first,” Beth admits. “You have these customers and this store and you are somebody in the community. Now, when you’re retired, you’re a former business person, so you start the next chapter. You do volunteer work. You become the person who goes to the store and gets the coffee or the paper towels, but you’re not on the phone with diamond dealers or worried about the advertising.”

Beth’s still somewhat amazed it worked out the way it did. “We were ready to get out of the business and we were ready to be done. And then he came along and he really was interested.”

Eileen McClelland is the Managing Editor of INSTORE. She believes that every jewelry store has the power of cool within them.

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