When we hear the term ‘family-owned’ in the jewelry industry, it almost seems commonplace. Everywhere you turn you hear stories of second, third and, occasionally, fourth or fifth generation families who’ve kept their jewelry business alive. We are not alone, however. Ninety percent of the 21 million U.S. businesses are controlled by families, according to MSN’s Money Central. Family business is the backbone of our economy.
For the Graham family, owning a family-run business has been a sustaining element when economic times turned bad. Surviving for more than 50 years, their small jewelry retail business weathered the storms of war, surging metal prices and several economic crisis. Today it is thriving with the second generation at the helm, a feat 70% of family owned businesses never accomplish.
|John & Rita Graham understand the importance of building relationships with the customers of their two jewelry stores in Comanche and Lawton, Oklahoma.|
When J.B. Graham was discharged from the Army in the late forties, he decided to go into the retail jewelry business. Opening Graham Jewelry in Comanche, Oklahoma, J.B. worked hard alongside his wife, Viola, to establish his business. It wasn’t long before Graham Jewelry became known for its quality and integrity to Comanche and its surrounding communities. His passion for jewelry was evident in his custom pieces as well as in his inventory.
J.B. and Viola raised two boys while running the store. Often John and Michael would work in store after school or in the summer sweeping floors and helping out, but neither had any interest in choosing jewelry as a career.
Michael decided to teach, while John went to work in a machine shop working for the oil fields after high school. It was the early ‘70s, and it wasn’t long before an oil crisis gripped the country. John’s job in the oil fields was gone. For the first time in his life John considered an offer to join J.B. in the family business.
“Although I’d never wanted to work in the store, the oil crisis made me realize that my old job wasn’t for me. So, when my dad offered me a job, I agreed and I headed off to Paris, Texas for jewelry and watch repair courses,” states John.
Still in his early 20s John worked under the tutelage of his father. “My dad taught me how to treat people,” recalls John. “He taught me to be honest, regardless the cost, even if it meant loosing money.”
For 15 years the father-son team worked together building the business. J.B. continued to come in to the store, even after he retired, until he passed away in 1995. He was 85.
With John at the helm, he and his wife, Rita, decided expansion was the best course for the store. They choose the location carefully, some 45 miles away from the anchor store in Comanche and hand-picked their staff. Together, Rita and John laid the foundation for a successful second location in Lawton.
Today they offer their customers two full-service repair shops, two full-time jewelers, two certified diamond appraisers and a reliable, trustworthy staff. Both locations offer a large variety in bridal, diamond and colored stone jewelry as well as watches and sterling jewelry.
John and Rita split their time between the two stores, ensuring they have a presence in each store every day.
But, for the boy who did not want to join the family business, John has found happiness in the very thing he didn’t aspire to.
“I love it when customers bring in damaged or broken heirlooms and I’m able to restore the pieces back to their original condition. The look on their faces when they see their piece is priceless and it is very satisfying,” states John. “I may have put more work in to it than I charged, but it is worthwhile to see their joy.”
John is not predicting whether his children will carry on the business. For now he is content making sure Graham Jewelry is more personable with their customers than any other jeweler around. As John sees it, “We aren’t interested in getting our customers in and out. To us they aren’t a dollar figure. They are our future.”
Visit the Graham Jewelry website at www.grahamjewelry.net or contact John at 580-439-6680.