A Family Affair – King’s Jewelry
By Bob Tagert
A Family Affair – King’s Jewelry
In these uncertain economic times it is always nice to find a business that has weathered the storm for over 50 years…this is the story of Norman “Brad” Bradford. Bradford is also a local boy having grown up in Alexandria and attending school here. The ambitious Bradford also held down a day job after school at the old Cannon Shoe Store on King Street. It was in the course of selling shoes and working with people that Bradford discovered not only what he enjoyed, but also that he was a natural born salesman. Recognizing Bradford’s unique talents, Moritz Bier, then owner of King’s Jewelry, made an offer of $10 more a week to the 19-year-old in June of 1962 and Brad made the move.
His initial training was “on the job”. Bier took the young Bradford under his wing and taught him – hands on – about the jewelry business. “I was always doing it under his guidance,” Bradford said. “He was kind of grooming me to take over some day.” As time passed, Bradford took on more of the every day operations and in 1978, when Bier and his family wanted to retire they sold the business to Bradford. That early-on family environment is the cornerstone to the family run King’s Jewelry of today.
Ten years after Bradford started at King’s his sister Helen joined him at the store working for Bier. After Bradford bought the business, his daughter Tari joined the growing business in 1983. “Wow, how time flies,” Tari tells me; I have been working at King’s Jewelry for more than 34 years.” Working with family and co-workers who are like family has been rewarding. Over the years Dad has taught us so much.” In 1986 Bradford’s wife Cathy, came to work at Kings Jewelry bringing with her an accounting background and quickly took over the dealings with insurance, advertising, office work and the books. Today, it is clear that both the working relationship and the romantic relationship have blossomed.
To insure that this family business stayed together at the same location, Bradford bought the building at 609 King Street in 1985. “Although the building was not for sale, I offered more than the market value to encourage the owners to sell. It has turned into a great long term investment,” he tells me. To round out this family affair, son Andrew graduated from George Mason and joined King’s five years ago and has completed the Graduate Diamonds Program at the Gemological Institute of America and the Colored Stones program. Son Gregory has just started with the business and will begin to learn it all. Just like when spring arrived this past week, this too is now a rite of passage, as Bradford becomes the teacher and his son the student. It is clear that both Brad and Cathy are delighted to be working alongside their two sons.
The friendly sales staff at the store is another one of its greatest assets. Simon, Peggy, Ken, Kay and Michael have been serving their customers for many years and Catherine, their newest employee, is an expert jeweler and custom designer. At King’s Jewelry there is no sales pressure because their employees do not work on commission. You will encounter the same level of customer service whether you are replacing a watch battery or purchasing a diamond ring.
Located in the back of the store and not readily visible to the public is their resident goldsmith, Marcos Smyth. He is trained both as a jewelry designer and sculptor and has the experience and expertise to turn your creative vision into a reality. Smyth will sketch out your design, create his own wax models, cast, and then finish that one-of-a-kind masterpiece. I am fortunate to have known Marcos for 40 years. He was one of the early artists at the Torpedo Factory Art Center before it was remodeled. He had unbelievable talent then as a metal sculpture artist.
Over the years King’s Jewelry has established a practice that their customers come first, and this philosophy has paid huge dividends. They have the same customers come back time after time whenever they need a special gift.
King’s offers a wide range of jewelry and watches in every price range for every budget. Beauty, quality value and integrity are the cornerstones of the King’s philosophy. When Bradford is buying for the store, he looks first at the beauty and quality of the piece then the value (price) and the integrity (will it hold up over the years). In today’s climate of so much online shopping, when it comes to jewelry, being in a store working with a sales consultant is the better bet. You can feel the weight and see the beauty of the piece.
In addition to a selection of the finest watches available, King’s Jewelry is also a franchise store for the coveted Rolex Watch, one of a handful in Virginia and the only one in Alexandria.
The hallmark of any successful business is gauged by repeat business. King’s Jewelry has customers who bought their wedding rings there and then came back 50 years later for a golden anniversary gift, and everything in-between. I personally know of people here in Alexandria and some who have moved out of the area who swear by King’s Jewelry. Actually, they just refer to it, as “going to “Brad’s” to pick up a necklace.”
I love a good success story, and this one about a 19-year-old shoe salesman with long hair and beard that became a refined successful businessman is a good one. This success certainly did not come overnight but over four decades of quality product and friendly, yet professional service.
609 King Street
Old Town Alexandria