The third generation’s the charm at 92-year-old Levy’s Fine Jewelry in Birmingham
There’s a point in every long-standing family business where its very existence looks shaky. For Charles Denaburg and his sister, Rhoda Denaburg Link, co-owners of Levy’s Fine Jewelry in Birmingham, Ala., it was after the 1972 death of their father, Joe Denaburg, who founded Levy’s in 1922. Charles, a lawyer moonlighting as a jeweler, kept things going. Ten years later, Rhoda, who’d been living (and running a jewelry business) in Chicago, returned and teamed with her brother for a complete store overhaul, transforming Levy’s into a destination for bridal and estate jewelry.
Today, their kids, Jared Nadler (Rhoda’s son) and Todd Denaburg (Charles’ son) do the heavy lifting at Levy’s—and business is booming. Still, Charles spends his lunch breaks and evenings at the store. Rhoda—whom Jared describes as “a mix of Phyllis Diller and Lucille Ball”—and her 91-year-old husband, diamond expert Marvin Link (of New York City brand A. Link)—are in every day to “sign the checks,” she jokes. “I clean the toilets when we don’t have anyone to do it. Doesn’t an owner do everything?”
Jared: I had no intention of being in this business. I came down from Chicago to visit the University of Alabama in 1982. I looked like the Michelin Man in a big down coat. It was 82 degrees. I saw all the girls in short shorts and Ray-Ban sunglasses and said, “I’m staying.”
Todd: As soon as I was able to push a broom, at around 7, I started working. It was as much a pawnshop as it was a jewelry store then. I learned the art of the deal, as it were.
Jared: In 1989, my ex-wife’s family was in the catalog showroom business; their biggest diamond supplier was Marvin Link. Rhoda ended up marrying Marvin. During that time, my father-in-law developed a terminal illness. I would spend time at the hospital and it was almost like bonding time between Marvin and myself. He would bring in 25 diamonds and say, “Put these stones in order.” I wasn’t in the jewelry business. I’d spend an hour putting them in order. He’d say “No!” and mix them up again. It was a game that we played. I eventually took a chance and had a formal interview with my uncle.
Rhoda: I wouldn’t ask my brother to bring my son into the business. I wouldn’t feel right doing that. Marvin told him, “You have someone who would be very good in this business.” Jared has a following like crazy; people stand in line and wait for him in the store. Todd is that way, too—very personable. Todd is a very good buyer, especially with antiques and estate jewelry, and does a lot on the computer. I think my father would be very proud.
Todd: A friend once compared [Jared and me] to a thoroughbred and plow horse. The thoroughbred runs around like crazy. The plow horse just keeps his head down. I’m the plow horse.
Jared: We want to keep our business going for our children. The third generation in a family business usually kills it. Todd and I have blown it up.