By Amanda Lee
It’s a brave new world, but Rachel Berdugo feels ready. As owner and proprietor of family business Oshawa Jewellery, established in 1983, she has witnessed many evolutions in the jewellery industry over time.
“It’s definitely challenging today with the internet, it makes the business very transparent. If you do something good—or bad—right away, it’s there on social media. People are also purchasing online, of course.”
Oshawa Jewellery has an active social media presence and uses feedback apps and tools to enhance customer experience online. Despite the predominance of online activity, Rachel believes that the store experience is still the utmost importance.
“The internet is great for buying toilet paper and diapers, but you won’t get the personal, connected experience you will at our store. My staff is highly trained and knows how to navigate the sale to ensure when a customer comes to us, they leave with the right piece, for the right price and leave feeling worthy and respected. This is and always has been very important to me. The store experience is the key to success and it’s what we will be focusing on in our new, gorgeous store.”
In a time when many in the jewellery industry are considering closing their stores, Rachel has invested in the future of her business with a new retail location. This past November, Oshawa Jewellery moved to a new space in the Oshawa Mall, across from their previous location.
MAKING A MOVE
With the move, Rachel now acquired three stores side by side in the mall which include two franchise owned stores, Pandora and Swarovski.
“The move was lucky for us, the spaces just happened to become available right next to each other,” Rachel said. “We were coming up to our 35th anniversary so the timing was perfect.” More space is created by having a dedicated location for Swarovski, and the open concept design for our Oshawa Jewellery store gives a friendly sales experience for the customer, without barriers between staff and shoppers. The feedback has been very positive so far from the community.
“People say: ‘Wow—it looks like you belong in New York!’” Rachel laughs. “It was a big investment, but I thought: I love the business! Yes, there are a lot of changes, but I’m invested in it. I have a son in the business who is young and innovative. I have my daughter who is a designer and owns her own jewellery company called Autograph Jewelry. I didn’t feel the need to retire and put the money in the bank. I felt I could go on and leave a legacy.”
Rachel’s son Tally and daughter Liora are both in the family business. Tally has a business and commerce education and Liora a journalism and design degree. Her son-in-law Avi, is our diamond wholesaler and he owns his own company called AF Special Diamonds Inc. in Los Angeles.
“It warms my heart that our family is in this business together. I just came from a conference that I shared with my husband and son and his family and it was amazing. We work together, we get to travel together—I feel so lucky, I pinch myself every morning!”
Rachel expresses her feeling of good fortune and gratitude freely, not only for the joy of spending so much time with family, but also for the chance to learn and grow in such a fascinating industry.
Raised on an Israeli kibbutz, Rachel emigrated to Canada in 1968. After her son was born, Rachel started considering a career in jewellery. A relative in the business trusted her with some initial pieces and she started hosting wine, cheese and jewellery parties and sold pieces at flea markets. She began attending industry events to observe and learn about jewellery.
Rachel set up her first small shop in downtown Oshawa after that in 1983, and that was the beginning of Oshawa Jewellery.
Many years later, Rachel remembers with gratitude those in the Oshawa community who supported her first store, and is happy to be able to pay that sentiment forward. As well as investing in new retail space and online engagement tools, she invests in her team as well. “I treat them like family, and many of them have been with me for years—someone just retired who was with us for 30 years. I value their opinions, and we talk about our lives. If they want to learn—take a gemology or accounting course—I will pay for it. I know it can only make the business better. I think if I’m invested in them, they’re invested in me.”
The team receives renowned Friedman Group retail training, as well as specialized training and mentorship from management at Oshawa Jewellery. Rachel has created a warm retail environment for customers with an engaged team, inviting open space concept, and a full suite of service offerings. The store has a jeweller on the premises, allowing for fast turnaround for customer requests. They also do watch repairs and maintenance and specialize in creating custom jewellery using CAD design techniques.
Rachel also says, “We have Tacori, Verragio, RNB, Noam Carver engagement rings, beautiful watches from Tag Heuer, Gucci, Hamilton, Montblanc, and Tissot—all these gorgeous brands available here in Oshawa, so our customers don’t have to run to Toronto.”
Oshawa Jewellery takes great pride in doing their best to make every customer’s dream come true. Whether it’s custom-designing an engagement ring to incorporate stones or settings that evoke how the couple met or sending flowers to customers on anniversaries, Rachel believes that customer care is the most important thing. “The money is irrelevant; I don’t care if they spend $10 or $10,000. I want my customer to feel valued.”
When asked about accomplishments, Rachel is very proud of her team, she herself has much to be proud of looking back over the last 35 years. Rachel had a dream of building a store from scratch and a passion that brought forth her thriving business with the help of her supportive family and team.
Rachel says that she is always learning and enjoys staying in touch of retail and industry news, taking time each morning to read about what is going on. “We definitely have a pulse on the business—it’s not like somebody’s running it from the sidelines,” she states. With a new location offering consumers a superior shopping experience, and a loyal family and team, she feels optimistic about the future.
“The luxury business still has room in society. We don’t have to disappear, we don’t have to be dinosaurs. The internet is just another useful vehicle to promote our brick-and-mortar business. There will always be a place for us.”