With a major store renovation all wrapped up, Howard Fine Jewellers continues to please customers and live up to its name as a top-notch jewellery and watch destination in the heart of Ottawa.
by Irina Lytchak
photography by Jessica Deeks
Howard Appotive was stepping into familiar territory when he embarked on a journey which led him to opening his very own storefront with his brother David several decades ago. The jeweller studied gemmology in school, apprenticed with Barry Brothers and worked under renowned names like Birks and Mappins before opening his own business so it’s no wonder that today his store, Howard Fine Jewellers, is a renowned landmark location on one of the busiest corners of downtown Ottawa.
“I originally opened up a manufacturing business, Howard Manufacturing Jewellers, in 1967; it was a bit of a fluke,” recalls Appotive. “I planned on opening up a retail store in a shopping mall but it kept getting delayed so I started selling to all the different jewellers here in the city. I didn’t have storefront for about 25 years after I was in business but I was making it.”
Years later when Howard Fine Jewellers was ready to open its doors to the public, Appotive couldn’t say goodbye to his manufacturing business and it is still an integral part of his store. Today, Howard Fine Jewellers, which is run under an equal partnership between brothers Howard and David, houses eight jewellers and two setters in a separate mezzanine located right in the store.
“They’re all master jewellers, there are no apprentices,” says Appotive proudly. “It’s incredible. We do everything from casting, right to the finished product. Nothing is done outside.”
Dedicated to timepiece luxury
There are several things that set Howard Fine Jewellers apart from other jewellery retailers in Canada and even from the rest of the world, one of them being the retailer’s dedicated relationship with the Rolex brand.
“We’ve been working with Rolex for 40 years,” says Appotive. “We have an authorized Rolex watch service, by authorized Rolex watchmakers. I think there’s a couple others in Canada that do it, but not that many. We report everything to Rolex.”
The store’s recent renovations also included a brand new segment of the store dedicated to the iconic watch brand, which is a first for Canada’s jewellery retail landscape.
“It’s gorgeous, absolutely beautiful,” says Appotive. “The designs came directly from Rolex.”
The newly redecorated store has more of what Appotive calls an “international” look, with the feel of a high-end European jewellery house, in order to better align itself with the affluent customers that tend to walk into the busy downtown.
“The calibre, quality, and the finishing lives up to that international standard,” says Appotive. “And that’s our competition today. We are in a prime
location in downtown Ottawa, on the business corner of the city. That’s how we get our international business a lot of the time. And because we don’t charge for branding, we have that big edge.”
Family and dedication go hand in hand
Despite the turmoil and hassles that come with doing an immense store transformation, Howard Fine Jewellers kept it’s doors open to its loyal clientele, making sure to accommodate all requests while still retailing product from its wide-ranging floor inventory.
“During the renovations, we had a security lobby where we handled everybody as much as we could,” explains Appotive. “We made sure to stock everything in vaults between showing it to people. We also set up a pop-up store a few doors down in my daughter Lindsay’s store. We took over about four of the showcases and it worked really well. People were going back and forth between the two locations. The clients loved it.”
It was easy for Appotive to rely on daughter Lindsay during the renovations because she, along with Appotive’s other daughter Stephanie and wife Sharron, are all very involved with the business. Sharon is a graphic designer who is also involved in designing the jewellery pieces retailed at Howard Fine Jewellers while Stephanie is in the process of gradually taking over the store. Lindsay has her own jewellery shop called True Bijoux, which concentrates on high fashion jewellery pieces and is just a few doors down from her father’s store. And while Appotive’s partner and brother David now focuses most of his time on the family’s financial and real estate holdings, David’s wife Sharon oversees the vintage and pre-owned inventory control for both Howard Fine Jewellers and True Bijoux.
“They have all been involved right from the beginning,” beams Appotive. “It’s all in the family.”
Thinking outside of the box
Not only does Howard Fine Jewellers cater to clientele in person through its beautiful storefront but the business also brings in a large sum of its profit through online sales.
The website for the company showcases various modern designs done in-house as well as pre-owned and estate high-end jewellery and watches.
“Some of the pieces we sell are brand new but we sell them as pre-owned, because they may have been traded in,” explains Appotive. “For example, if someone was presented with an Omega watch but they really wanted a Rolex, they can trade it in. In the end, the product is brand-spanking new.”
When it comes to estate and vintage jewellery and watches, Howard Fine Jewellers stands apart for offering pieces that are absolutely magnificent and in many cases, one-of-a-kind. The retailer also specializes in buying distressed merchandise, which entails the purchasing of samples from manufacturers that are looking to let go of their product.
“Once we obtain the merchandise, we can do many different things with it because we have a full factory right in the store,” says Appotive. “We can dismantle it, use it for our own designs, or use the material again.”
Today, Howard Fine Jewellers is a prominent landmark that makes up part of Ottawa’s downtown landscape and the family behind the store is proud to look back at what the store has achieved over the years.
“If you’re looking for an item that’s one-of-a-kind and you need it done right… that’s us,” says Appotive. “We really try to blow people away with what we do.”
Most importantly of all, it’s the customers that walk into the store on a daily basis that enrich the Howard Fine Jewellers name to be what it is today.
“It’s all about the people, the clients,” he says. “They are terrific.” CJ