Santa Monica, CA—Millennials may loftily demand locally grown farm-to-table food on their plates, but their loyalty to hardworking local businesses doesn’t go past their stomachs.
In a scathing open letter to customers of Readers Fine Jewelers, Avedis “Avo” Guerboian, a sixth-generation jeweler and himself a Millennial, takes his peers to task for not appreciating what local businesses provide to a community and the United States at large—or how hard previous generations worked to build those businesses and add to the economy and community. The 89-year-old store, billed as the largest family-owned jewelry store in Santa Monica, closed last weekend. Left: Eddie and Avedis Guerboian.
Guerboian’s father, Eddie, is a fifth generation jeweler who arrived in Santa Monica as an immigrant from Egypt in 1967. He went to work for Reader’s Jewelers, later buying the store from its former owners and continuing it with his wife, Evelyn. But just seven years after celebrating an extensive remodeling followed by a grand re-opening, Readers joins a steady stream of independent jewelers exiting because they’ve had enough of trying to compete with the Internet and customers who only come to a trusted community jeweler when the jewelry they bought online needs to be fixed or sized.
Happier times: Cutting the ribbon on Readers Fine Jewelers' newly-remodeled store in 2009.
Guerboian posted his letter on the store’s website in response to customers who didn't shop there there suddenly expressing dismay at the store’s closing.
“This is the new norm,” writes Guerboian. “5 times a day, people walking in or calling the store after buying jewelry online and asking for our trustworthy service. Clearly, they are weary of purchasing online, but they don't want to spend the extra money to buy from a reputable long time family business.
“Who's to blame for this? Is it a bad thing? What's the bright side to all of this?
“Well, I blame the 'millenials' for what is inevitably the end of an era of 'mom and pop/brick and mortar' style stores. Apparently, at 33 years old, I am a member of this generation and I have mixed feelings about it. Before I continue, I believe everyone, needs to work a retail, food or customer service job at some point in their lives. The world will be a better place.”
In addition to the hard work ethic of family businesses, they also contribute greatly to the community. Eddie Guerboian sits or sat on nine charitable boards, has won more than a half dozen awards for community service, belongs to both the California Jewelers Association and Jewelers of America, and the store contributes regularly to multiple charities. This—not just a jewelry store—is what the community is really losing, explains his son’s letter.
Guerboian isn’t entirely abandoning the industry. As he observed, customers in the store were spending less but also asking for custom jewelry. The business will continue as a custom jeweler featuring the Edward Avedis collection—and if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em: Guerboian plans to build a following for his work online and through social media.
A ring from the Readers custom collection. Eddie and Avedis have created custom pieces for both local and prominent customers, such as Walt Disney Co. CEO Robert Iger.