Toddy and Amanda Pitard didn’t know they wanted another jewelry store until someone put a bug in their ear – twice. With the June 2022 purchase of Goldstein’s in Mobile, Alabama, they now own three well-established stores, and they’re ready for more.
A lifelong jeweler, Toddy – who began working in jewelry retail in El Dorado, Arkansas, as a teenager – learned early on the value of a mature business. Murphy’s Jewelers had been family-owned and operated since 1939.
“My boss, Jay Murphy, who owned Murphy’s Jewelers at that time, knew how to run a business, and he knew how to handle money,” Pitard says. Murphy hired him as an engraver, then invested in him by sending him to jewelry school.
In 1998, Pitard bought half of the business, and in 2000, he and wife Amanda bought the rest, expanding its name to Murphy-Pitard Jewelers.
Two decades later, a real estate agent he met at the El Dorado Country Club, where he presided over the board, tipped him off to a store that was quietly being offered for sale. That was Lauray’s The Diamond Center in Hot Springs, established in 1924 and one of the oldest jewelers in Arkansas. The Pitards liked what they saw: a well-seasoned store that took care of its customers and offered fair prices. Since their purchase in 2018, Pitard says volume at the store has increased 45 percent.
The second tip came from a consulting firm the Pitards share with other top stores across the nation that are looking to streamline operations. The consulting firm provides high-level intel and regular meetings with advisors for such things as review of profit and loss statements, margins, human resources assistance, and inventory management. During a regular phone meeting with the consulting firm, an advisor suggested the Pitards look into Goldstein’s Jewelers, established in 1879.
“He said, ‘You’ve done really well with your store in El Dorado, and you’re doing well with the Hot Springs store too’,” Pitard recalls. “Then he told me about Goldstein’s. He said the owner wanted to retire, and he said, ‘They don’t need to go out of business. You need to buy that business!’”
Pitard resisted at first, but then he and Amanda decided to visit Mobile and talk with the owner – Richard Frank, who had purchased Goldstein’s from the founders in 1956. They were bowled over.
“The history – it’s the oldest store in Mobile,” Pitard says.
After they met with Frank and veteran store personnel, they went around town asking people if they knew of a place to buy a nice piece of jewelry, and nine out of 10 people said Goldstein’s.
Because of Goldstein’s venerable history and strong reputation, the Pitards decided to proceed with the purchase in spite of the geographical challenge posed by the distance from their other stores.
“Amanda and I strongly believe in honoring history when making acquisitions,” Pitard says. “We understand the sacrifice and hard work that goes into building the brand of a family-owned business, and we wouldn’t dream of changing store names.”
With Amanda being a Graduate Gemologist and the team of craftsmen and experts including watchmakers, bench jewelers, and tenured sales associates being shared among the businesses – not to mention the buying power that comes with multiple locations – Pitard says the mutual sharing of practices has been beneficial with each store purchase. In 2018, Murphy-Pitard shared its 5 Percent Cash Back Rewards program with Lauray’s and, in turn, adopted Lauray’s lifetime warranty for jewelry maintenance. Since the June purchase of Goldstein’s, the Mobile store has adopted those two programs, and the Arkansas stores in turn have adopted Goldstein’s method for taking in repairs that adds an extra layer of protection for the customer.
“These are just a few specific examples of the symbiosis, where the three stores are using their 324 years of combined history to strengthen one another,” Pitard says.
“Things have really taken off,” he says of Goldstein’s. “With the lifetime warranty and the rewards program, it’s a 21st Century model of what we’re doing here.”
With the two Arkansas stores being 115 miles apart and Mobile being a day’s drive from them, Pitard says, “Having a plane is paramount. We just move around as needed.”
In addition, technology makes remote management possible. The teams use regular zoom meetings and daily chat lines to help each other and keep communications open among all three locations.
It was not until they bought Lauray’s that they started thinking about tying other good stores in the mix.
“It gets easier each time,” Pitard says. “We’re looking for opportunities to have more stores. I’m interested in speaking with store owners that are looking toward retirement but want their store to continue.”
He stresses that a good fit with their current business model is key – namely a strong legacy and integrity.
“I’d prefer to pay fair market value for a business that is integrity-driven and on its way up than to purchase a less-expensive company that’s struggling and on its way down.”