Fine jewelry meets flip-flops amid a casual coastal vibe at Johnston Jewelers in Florida’s Tampa Bay area. Behind a head-turning turquoise façade, a team of nine operates a busy shop that serves generational return customers and fishing tournaments alike.
Although Johnston Jewelers recently celebrated its 50th year in Florida, the store has older roots. William “Bill” Johnston founded the business in New York in 1948. A WWII veteran, Johnston came home from the war and operated a watch-repair business from his home until he developed a reputation and enough clientele to open a small storefront.
He moved to Florida in 1972. Today his son Doug is the lead bench jeweler, and grandson Grant works the floor.
Co-captains Laura Morgan and Ryan McMahon, described by McMahon as adopted members of the Johnston family, help steer the third-generation business.
Morgan, who has been with the store for nine years, says her family and in-laws have been close to the Johnstons for years.
“My father-in-law took Doug fishing all the time when he was 9 years old,” she says.
McMahon, who joined the store two years ago, met the Johnstons when he was in the restaurant business.
Despite all his business and retail experience, McMahon admits he faced a learning curve in jewelry, which he says is less “cut and dried” than other retail businesses.
“Everything didn’t click right away,” he says. “I stay on top of the industry, though, and everybody is part of a team. We all share a vision for the business and everyone takes personal ownership.”
Morgan was also new to jewelry when she joined the crew.
“I enjoy learning in the business, and there’s so much joy in finding the perfect piece from someone and seeing how excited they are to get it or to give it to someone. That’s my favorite part,” she says.
The pair don’t concern themselves with job titles or clearly delineated roles – everyone works the sales floor and everyone shares buying responsibilities, taking their lead from top ownership.
One thing that sets the store apart is its relationship with avid boaters and anglers, McMahon says. Johnston’s frequently does cross-promotions with fishing tournaments and similarly themed events around the Gulf Coast. In fact, the store offers custom jewelry pieces such as fish pendants.
And it’s not unusual to see customers arrive fresh off the boat or beach.
“People bring their children and grandchildren in. No one feels intimidated,” Morgan says.
“We’re a fine jewelry store, but casual. We want people to be comfortable,” McMahon says. “People can be in flip-flops and a T-shirt, and I guarantee they could spend six figures on a diamond every day of the week.”
McMahon says Johnston Jewelers is looking into adding a second location, but for now their spot on the borderline between Seminole and Largo serves them well. People who have moved far away still do business with the store, bayside customers gladly make the 90-minute round trip, and their turquoise exterior has wooed long-time local passers-by to jump in and test the waters too.
Morgan says they’ll be welcome like family.
“If I were to say what our philosophy is, it’s fine jewelry at the most competitive prices, and hands-down the best service you’ll find anywhere,” McMahon says. “Fair value and our relationship with customers – that’s what it’s all about.”