Fox partnership comes to an amicable end

Jewelers Tom Fox and David Norman, who opened Thomas S. Fox Jewelry in Grand Rapids, Mich., 15 months ago with tremendous publicity and fanfare, have decided to part ways.

David Norman said the split was amicable and was done to preserve their friendship. The long-time friends and previous business associates had differing business philosophies.

“He was 75 and I was 49 and we opened a store geared toward high-end business and brands,” Norman told JCK. “But he never really cared for the brands. And after a year of being in the business we just had too many arguments. I sold out to him to keep our friendship.”

Norman served as chairman of the board and Norman as president. Fox now operates the store as the sole owner and chairman.

The new-store opening was a reunion of sorts for the two men. Norman got his start in the jewelry business with Tom Fox and the Fox family while still in high school: He worked for the Fox Jewelers chain in 1969, when it had 18 stores. He eventually became executive vice president of the chain, which grew to more than 40 stores. Norman left the company in 1996, a year before Tom Fox sold the chain to Oregon-based Fred Meyer Jewelers.

From there Norman went to Reed Jewelers in North Carolina to serve as executive vice president. He left after three years to pursue an Internet venture that didn’t work out, and last served as president of Schwarzschild Jewelers Inc. of Richmond, Va.

Fox contacted Norman in June 2001 about opening a business, Norman said, and the Thomas S. Fox store opened in August. Norman, a native of Grand Rapids, said he saw this as both an opportunity to return home as well as to return to the business that had given him his start in the jewelry industry.

“[Fox’s] non-compete was over and we decided to partner together in Grand Rapids,” Norman said.

Norman noted that his previous positions had given him a taste for the guild business and brand business, and he’d wanted to continue to pursue this in the new operation.

However, he said, “Tom had always been in the middle-of-the-road business. He never cared for debt, and when you’re 75, I can understand that. The bottom line is it wasn’t going to work. We actually thought about buying him out, but since his name was on the door, it probably would have gone with him so it was easier to buy me out.”

Norman said that he is now starting a consulting business.

“Having been a vice president of a chain and executive vice president of a chain and president of a guild operation, I think I’m going to take my knowledge and experience and start a consulting company and see if I can help companies,” he said. “Merchandising, marketing, public relations, and recruiting are four keys to operating a successful business, and I am skilled in all four areas.

“I was looking forward to coming home and I’m sorry it didn’t work out. But now I’m looking forward to new challenges.”

Those interested in contacting Norman can reach him at (616) 698-6435 or via e-mail at normandavid53@aol.com.