Tyler Rogoway grew up around the jewelry business—his father, Dave, and uncle, Rick, co-own LaRog Brothers, a fine jewelry store with two locations in the Portland, Ore., suburbs. But it wasn’t until just over a year ago that he decided to give working for the family business a serious go. Now he handles the bulk of marketing efforts for the 68-year-old company, which has a rich history of running successful promotions and year-round advertising campaigns in the Portland area. “The timing was good for me to come on,” says Tyler, whose experience outside of jewelry retail includes running a nightclub and revamping a local restaurant. “Our marketing programs have always been strong, and there was a need for more in that [department]. We’re a two-store operation, but we need to have the same impact as the big guys.” According to Dave, Tyler’s also a natural-born salesman—and a much-needed fresh face. “We’re mainly focused on the engagement ring category,” Dave says. “And when you’re in your 60s, as Rick and I are, it’s hard to relate to a 24-year-old.”
Dave: Rick’s strong suit is finance, which is my weakest suit. We’re sale and promotion driven, and that can get out of hand if you don’t have someone corralling you and doing things like setting the budget for the year. Tyler wanted to come in and help us with promotions. We spend close to a million [dollars] a year in advertising, and we spend a load of dollars on TV and radio. Our ads were older and getting stale, so we wanted a whole new fresh look on TV and a fresh sound on radio. And Tyler gave it to us.
Rick: My brother is a real character and he always keeps things lively. He’s great with the marketing and is really creative that way. We’ve been a good match over the years, and we don’t conflict that much with what we do. We trust each other and we discuss everything. Tyler brings a younger perspective. Dave and I are getting up there, and he brings that connection to younger people that maybe we’ve started to miss a little.
Tyler: I’m more on the creative side of things. I design the majority of ads in print and on social media. The marketing budget moves based on where our sales are. I think that if you’re going to buy a lot of real estate—that’s what media is, really—you can put a mobile home on it or a mansion. It really doesn’t cost you a lot more to make great creative. I sit with dad and Rick and say, “How can we create something that is more than just a message but that’s outside the box?” We’re really trying to put a mansion on that property instead of a tract home.
Tyler (r.) with his dad, Dave (c.), and uncle, Rick
Rick: It’s a 24/7 business, so even when you’re out celebrating a birthday or other occasion and you say you’re not going to talk about work, you do. When times are really good, it’s a little easier. When times are rougher, it’s a bit of a downer. We’re on an upswing now, but it’s not an easy business anymore; it’s probably harder than it’s ever been. Because we’re independent, we’re able to move a little faster than our competitors. We’re able to move on trends. And with Tyler on board, we have new exciting things happening.
Tyler: I like to be able to sit down with an idea with my dad and uncle—and maybe it gets knocked down. But if it’s something we want to act on, we don’t have to kick it upstairs. For someone who sees himself as a creative guy, it’s great to have ideas and see them come to life within 24 hours. We’re very quick and agile.
Rick: When bringing someone into the business, make sure it’s something they love to do, rather than just a job. It has to be something they have a passion for. My daughter was not suited for retail, and we found that out really fast. Now she’s doing great on her own. Tyler bounced around a little—he has an entrepreneurial spirit. Now he’s come on full-force and is doing great. And open communication is really important. You can’t be bashful. When I’ve disagreed with something Tyler’s done, I’ve said so.
Tyler: The best lesson I’ve learned from both my dad and my uncle is that this business and [success] is not about when the next vacation is; it’s about a craft and being in the store and hard work. That’s it. Period. You feel like you’re plying a craft here. It’s about being shoe-leather. It’s about shaking hands. People don’t get a lot of opportunities to work with their families, and I love it.
SPREADING THE WORD
Tyler: My father is the best media buyer I’ve ever seen. I don’t think any ad agency could beat him. That’s a key part of how we’re able to have such an impact in our area.
Dave: Tyler is very visionary and has a lot of new ideas. In Portland, Major League Soccer is the biggest ticket. There is always a 15,000-person waiting list to see a Portland Timbers game, even when it’s snowing or raining. Tyler developed a watch made out of all-natural wood, which we gave to all the players and the front-end people in their office. Our ad is up on the Jumbotron, and we’re going to have a fan wedding on the field where we will supply the whole deal. He’s also done a lot of computerization and making things easier for the salespeople—we had a lot of paper. He’s pretty much eliminated all of that.
Tyler: Working in the hospitality business, I learned it’s not that different from what I do now. Whether you’re selling burgers and fries or jewelry, it comes down to making people feel really comfortable. Not just comfortable—really comfortable. It’s not always about the profit. It’s about the brand.