One of the new owners of Speidel, Jerry Cerce, took some time to talk with me today ..
The 105-year-old watch band company, which went into receivership in June, will now be run by Cerce’s children: Lynn Marie, 34, who has background in consumer products at Proctor and Gamble, and Gennaro, 33, who has worked in distressed debt.
Cerce, who has had successful runs in the jewelry and optical industries, plans to stay on as “mentor.” He says this is the third time he’s tried to buy Speidel, finally winning it in an auction for a reported $1.65 million. He feels the purchasing company, Cerce Capital, has been mis-characterized as a “private equity fund,” which has raised hackles given the dismal history of p.e. funds in our industry.
“I did private equity for a few years, but I don’t consider myself a private equity fund. I consider myself a mentor,” he says.
He says the new company will be a “leaner” operation that will “concentrate on the jeweler and be very customer focused.” He is also looking to broaden the product mix, including possibly adding men’s and optical lines.
He says the company has already hired back half its workforce, and has made a lot of progress getting its operations back up to speed. “We also want to rebuild our relationship with the major chains,” he says. He says he’s gratified by the recognition Speidel still has in the industry.
While Cerce Capital owns Speidel, it did not purchase its former affiliated company, Providence Watch Hospital. “It was separated in the receivership, and has nothing to do with us,” he says. “We don’t want to be in the retail business.” That company has been purchased by a relative of its original founder, reports say.