November 2009

Family Affair: Heritage Fine Jewelry

Author: Linda S. Hopkins

Some say that family and business don’t mix—the theory being that one relationship will strain the other. But one Hilton Head Island family is putting that theory to the test. At Heritage Fine Jewelry, Patti Catalano-Braddock and her three children have discovered the formula for working harmoniously. It starts with a large dose of patience combined with honesty, trust, mutual respect, humor, loyalty and, of course, love. But that’s not all it takes to succeed in business. It takes knowledge, skills and the willingness to work hard, too. Thanks to the fine example set by their mother, the children have all they need to sustain and perpetuate her success.

“We’ve all been raised with this same work ethic,” said Jennifer Lance, the youngest of Braddock’s children. “If you’re supposed to be at work, you’re going to show up. We all have time off, but we don’t take advantage of the fact that we work in a family business. It’s almost the opposite. You feel that much more dedicated.”

Another key is the various skill sets they each bring to the business. “We’re all good at different things,” said Jennifer, whose primary role is sales and jewelry appraisal. Having completed her diamond and diamond grading courses for certification by the Gemological Institute of America, she is the “go-to” girl for stones. She also wears them well, which can’t hurt!

Middle son, Doug Safe, inherited his mother’s unique people skills. “It was not foreign for me at eight years old to be selling jewelry on the other side of the counter,” he said. Today, he works the front of the store as a sales associate and trained engraving technician. “He is a people person, and the ladies love him,” said Jennifer.

Eldest son, Patrick spent his early years playing with the wax, making jewelry molds, experimenting with his mother’s tools and ultimately apprenticing under her. Today, as an accomplished bench jeweler with 20 years experience in jewelry manufacturing, custom design, stone setting and jewelry repair, he spends most of his time in the back rather than meeting the public. But when it comes to making customers happy, he’s the man, Jennifer said, citing her brother’s finely honed skills and attention to detail. (He’s also the computer guru who keeps the Web site running.)

Ironically, all three of the children once vowed that they would never work in the jewelry business. “I don’t know what I thought I was going to do,” said Patrick. “You say to yourself, ‘I’ll do anything but that.’” But after exploring other careers, they all admit that there’s no grass greener.

Doug was last to come back to the business after working in the construction industry. But he is quick to point out that none of them ever really left. “Even if we were doing something else, the jewelry store took precedence,” he said.

“We’ve always been a family that didn’t drift far from home,” said Jennifer. “Mom raised all three of us alone and ran a business, so I think that gives us a very special tie with her. I don’t think any of us could fathom moving away from where she is, regardless of what our profession might be.”

Braddock refers to herself as the “mother hen,” and you can be sure that she is overseeing her brood. “Mom is here for a good reason—and that is to keep everything running smoothly. She started this business over 30 years ago, and she’s still the person who makes the big decisions,” said Doug. “On one hand, we wish that she didn’t have to come in to work. But it’s her hobby and her socialization. Even if we kicked her out, she’d show up the next day to work.”

What goes around comes around
If you think all jewelry stores are alike, step inside Heritage Fine Jewelers and experience the difference family makes. Most distinguishing is the relaxed atmosphere. Whether you are wearing your board shorts and flip flops or are dressed to the nines, you will get the same friendly attention and service. “We’re not a hoity-toity jewelry store,” said Doug. “I think that’s important to the comfort of our customers.”

You may be greeted by the family dog or one of the adorable grandchildren, but one thing is certain: You will not be ignored. Neither will you be pressured. In fact, Jennifer often sends customers out to other places to compare merchandise and price. “We’re not afraid to send them out, because we know the value we offer. They always come back,” she said. “By being trustworthy, our customers feel confident that they will receive the best pricing and most competent service—this time and every time.”

In light of the current economy, the Heritage Fine Jewelry family is especially blessed. According to Doug, the jewelry industry in general has been down about 50-70 percent. “We are one of the few who are still making our numbers,” he said. The key, he says is being able to offer the customer quality merchandise at a fair value along with the finest in service.

“We stand behind everything we sell, whether it is something we manufacture here or something we have hand-selected for the store. We’re here for the long haul,” said Patrick.

“Being that we all have something vested, we’re not just burning a nine-to-five,” added Doug. “We all care about what we do, and we’ve never gotten greedy. We’re fortunate enough to sell something we believe in. We’re always very proud of what we can sell and what we can sell it for.”

“If one customer sends every one of their family members and every friend that they talk to, it doesn’t matter what we made on what we sold them,” said Jennifer. The attitude is proving profitable as a new generation of customers follow their parents’ and grandparent’s lead. “We believe that an honest and reliable reputation is the recipe for success,” said Jennifer. “It’s smart business to give it a chance to come back around.”

Heritage Fine Jewelry is a full-service jeweler, located at 107 Pineland Station, Hilton Head Island. For more information, call (843) 689-2900 or visit online at www.heritagejewelershhi.com.

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