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Ohio Jeweler’s Success Was Built on Founder’s Thirst for Knowledge

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The team of Harris Jeweler

The staff at Harris Jeweler, led by Bonnie Harris Frey, fifth from left.

 

Harris Jeweler

Troy, OH

Happy 70th Anniversary!

Gemological knowledge has always had a special place close to the heart of Harris Jeweler. Founder H.M. (Hal) Harris, was inspired by a meeting with industry icon Robert Shipley Sr. to become one of the first Certified Gemologists in the country. It was a thirst for knowledge that he instilled in his children, grandchildren and employees. Nevertheless, while all staff are still encouraged to get various credentials, and the store invests heavily to stay on top of technology and trends, the current owners say Harris Jeweler wouldn’t have been able to stay in business so long without a core focus on customer service. “This is best phrased in our mission statement to our clients, (which starts): ‘You are most important to us,’” says Hal’s granddaughter and third-generation owner, Bonnie Harris Frey. The store is marking its seven decades of serving Ohio’s Miami County by collecting testimonials from long-time clients and giving one lucky customer “jewelry for life to celebrate our lifetime in business,” says Harris Frey.

Interview with Bonnie Harris Frey, President/owner

Please tell us how your store got its start.

My grandfather, H.M. Harris, began his career in a Kenton, OH, jewelry store while in high school. He was greatly influenced by Robert Shipley Sr., who started the GIA and the AGS. His contact with Professor Shipley motivated him to become one of the first Certified Gemologists in the United States and Canada.

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He founded the company in Sidney, OH, in February of 1946, immediately following World War II. Through hard work and strong business ethics, my grandfather was awarded membership into the AGS in 1950. He served on many civic boards as well as two terms as president of the Ohio Jewelers Association.

Was there ever a time when it looked as if the business may not survive?

In 2009 we were struggling, like many stores. My father had just retired and we really tapped out the market with a huge retirement sale. One day we were having our store meeting and decided that we were “no longer participating in the recession.” The attitude change turned our business around on a dime and our positive attitude about both the economy and our business led to a great store vibe that resulted in a large increase in sales. We have never looked back!

What has been the key to the store’s growth and longevity?

No. 1 is definitely customer service and not accepting anything but the best. We strive to be everything our customers need us to be and are constantly innovating to be on the cutting edge of technology. The word “no” is something we try to avoid at all costs. We also place a strong emphasis on educating our staff.

We start every new associate off with the Certifed Sales Associate course through the American Gem Society and encourage them to constantly further their education. We believe our staff is our most valuable asset and in order to continue to grow we need to constantly be educating them whether it be from having them take a course to sending them to a buying show to going to seminars.

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What have all those years in the business taught your family about jewelry retail?

In the last 70 years and through three generations we have learned that although it is important to stay on the forefront of trends and technology, it always goes back to that one thing that has been most important from the beginning. This is best phrased in our mission statement to our clients: “You are most important to us. We will listen to you and do whatever it takes to continually exceed what you expect from us.” Going back to the basics of stellar customer service, quality merchandise and a phenomenal staff has always served us well.

Harris Jeweler is currently in the midst of what Bonnie Harris Frey calls an “aggressive” growth plan.

What has the latest generation of owners brought to the business?

It is always great to bring new blood into the business for ideas and innovation. Since I took over the business in 2010 we have brought in a lot of new technology and went after different segments of the jewelry business that have turned into huge growth categories for us. I hope to be a good steward of the store and take it to the next level for the next generation.

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What’s next for the store?

We have an aggressive growth plan in place that is really going to propel us into the future. This started with a huge leap of faith when we hired three new full-time staff members a few months ago. We knew we needed to take this step in order to be able to implement our plan. The staff are all involved in various projects to facilitate growth, which is very empowering. Our staff is amazing and to see everyone come together towards a common goal is great for teambuilding.

How will you celebrate this milestone?

Seventy years is a huge milestone for any jewelry store and we are very proud of our heritage. We will be having events lasting through several months to show our appreciation for our clients and thank them for contributing to our success. However, the focus on 70 years is going to go throughout the year as we gather testimonials from clients who have shopped with us for generations. And to celebrate our lifetime in business we will be giving one lucky client jewelry for life!

HAVE YOUR OWN STORE ANNIVERSARY COMING UP?

Email [email protected] and we’ll do our best to feature you!
 

This article is an online extra for INSTORE Online.

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