Kansas City, MO—Harold E. Tivol, an industry icon famous for his progressive approach to both marketing and merchandising at Tivol in Kansas City, MO, died peacefully at home on Wednesday, surrounded by family and his beloved dog Charlie. He was 92.
Tivol was born September 28, 1923 in Kansas City, MO, the son of Mollie and Charles Tivol. He attended Southwest High School and the University of Illinois. As president of Tivol, the company founded by his father in 1910, Harold Tivol was known throughout the industry as progressive, risk-taking businessman, and he built an international reputation for the store. He was one of the earliest to champion designer jewelry when most jewelers still were trying to wrap their arms around the idea of promoting a brand name other than their own. Names such as David Yurman, Steven Lagos, Roberto Coin and Penny Preville all cite their introductions to Harold and Ruthie Tivol as turning points in their careers.
“Harold Tivol set the standard of success both professionally and personally,” Preville said. “He paved the way for designer fine jewelry by being one of the first to welcome collections like mine into his stores. He also had a way of making each and every person feel special; his smile could light up a room. I feel honored to have known him, worked with him and to have called him my friend. He will be missed. He was the rarest of gems. May he rest in peace.”
Tivol was one of the few independent jewelers in the 1980s to work with a professional advertising agency, and he devoted a significantly greater portion of his budget to marketing than was the norm. He also was willing to step out of the proverbial box and run advertising that was radically different from the typical jewelry-store advertising of the day. Some of the TV commercials created under Harold’s tenure--usually starring himself with deprecating humor--won advertising-industry awards for creativity. One such was created to achieve Tivol's goal of reducing threshold resistance. After an exhaustive search for a someone to star in it, Kansas City adman John Muller decided the best spokesman was sitting right in front of him: Harold himself. He produced a "rising sun" commercial with scrolling text and music reminiscent of the first Star Wars movie, with the text explaining that most people don't like jewelry stores because they're intimidating. As the "sun" came up, it proved to be Tivol's own bald head. That commercial earned him local fame, and Tivol appeared in many more guises from wigs to dogs over the years. The firm continues its tradition of unusual and humorous advertising today.
When asked in a 2013 interview about his wilingness to take risks he said, “I’m always willing to try something new and different. I can’t stand the status quo.”
Tivol grew up in the business working alongside his parents, but only became an official partner following his service in World War II. It was he who in 1951 convinced his father to move from downtown Kansas City to the Country Club Plaza, the store's present iconic flagship location. The store has since expanded that location twice, and opened a second location--complete with accompanying humorous advertising.
By 1988, Tivol was being lauded as an icon in the jewelry industry when he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award from Modern Jeweler magazine, for combining old-fashioned values of quality and integrity with ambitious merchandising and marketing programs.
Tivol was married to Ruth Krigel Tivol for 38 years. Together they traveled the world, worked together, and had a wide circle of family and friends both in the jewelry industry and outside of it. For 25 years, they spent the winter in Rancho Mirage, CA where he enjoyed golf, tennis, bridge, and many close friendships. In his community, Tivol served as president of the Country Club Plaza Association for more than a decade. He also was president of Oakwood Country Club. In 2002, he and Ruthie were honored with the Alfred Benjamin Friend of the Family Award from Jewish Family Services.
On a personal note, Tivol already was an icon in the industry when I started my career as a junior editor at JCK magazine, but even with his stature and the respect of other leaders, he always graciously took the time to be interviewed by a relative newbie. As I progressed in my career, I'd see him and Ruthie at different shows around the world, and he'd always ask how things were going with me and with the magazine. When he started asking for my opinion on industry matters, it was a great sense of accomplishment and pride.
Tivol was predeceased by his beloved granddaughter, Brooke Tivol McGrath, in 2011. He is survived by his wife, Ruth Tivol; his children, Cathy (Mark) Maslan, Tom (Susan) Tivol, Merilyn (Loren) Berenbom, Kathy (Scott) Hawley, and Jim (Felicia) Krigel; his grandchildren, Derek (Alison) McGrath, Hunter (Gloria) McGrath, Andrew Maslan, Danielle Maslan, Jacob Tivol, Anne (Victor) Wishna, Michael (Mollie) Berenbom, Katie (J.R.) Berger, Jonathan (Jessica) Stone, Jennifer Stone, Annah Krigel, Mayer Krigel, Kamden Krigel; great-grandchildren, Lydia, Cora, Brooke, Vivien, Abraham, Eliana, Adam; and loving nephews and nieces.
Funeral services are scheduled for Thursday, July 7, at 3:00 p.m. at Louis Memorial Chapel, 6830 Troost Ave, Kansas City, MO. Interment will be at Rose Hill Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to the Brooke Tivol McGrath Legacy Fund at the Jewish Community Foundation, the Jewish Federation, or the charity of your choice.
“We are deeply grateful for our wonderful caregivers, especially LaCrisia Mozingo and Duncan Njoroge,” says Cathy Tivol Maslan. “We will forever remember Harold for his twinkling blue eyes, irrepressible wit, and ever-present smile.”