JCK Retail Report: Mills Jewelers Turns 80

George Fritz and his staff celebrated Mills Jewelers’ 80th anniversary last week. The milestone celebration and the anniversary year have been successful for Fritz, with the recent completion of a major store renovation and the addition of two new jewelry lines.

Direct mail invites and robo-calls to 4,000 customers in the store’s database helped bring 200 guests to a gala celebration held at the Tuscarora Inn last Wednesday. In the run up the event many well-wishers called the store to congratulate the jeweler and to RSVP on the party.

Guests Dining

"The week before the event there was a barrage of phone calls," says Fritz. "Many people called to thank us and to offer their congratulations and also let us know if they were going to attend the party or not. It was quite an outpouring, and these were just the phone calls."

Other pre-party interaction with customers included the 30 VIP clients who were allowed to wear pieces of jewelry from the store to the anniversary party. Choices ran the gamut from chocolate pearls on leather cords to higher end diamond necklaces.

In addition to these 30 pieces of jewelry worn by guests, Fritz set up two display cases of jewelry to show the store’s range of inventory and new pieces while giving party attendees the chance to complete wish lists in the run up to the holidays.

The Lockport, NY-based store owner attributes recent accomplishments to the store’s long history with its customers and Fritz’s commitment to community outreach work. After giving a speech to party attendees, one guest member thanked Fritz for all of his contributions to the community. One impromptu customer speech lead to another, thanking the jeweler for his active participation in local charities including Hospice, The Historic Palace Theatre restoration, and nearly every local benefit.

Fritz was a paperboy who delivered the city’s daily newspaper to the store. In 1972, he began working for Victor Schaefer and Leonard Rosenthal, the store’s original owners. Over the years, Fritz worked closely with Schaefer, learning the ropes and responsibilities of the job. When Schaefer got older and eventually died, Fritz purchased the store from the owner’s family in 1989. "I’ve only worked two jobs in my life," says Fritz. "Delivering newspapers and working in a jewelry store."


George Fritz and Guest


When Fritz took control of the store he added many designers, including affordable fashion jewelry as well as broader offerings of bridal jewelry. That formula worked well for Fritz and his staff, but in recent years the store’s custom work has been a lucrative profit center for the store, especially in recessionary times.

In-store CAD/CAM custom work got a boost this year when Fritz added CounterSketch Studio, a new 3-D jewelry CAD/CAM software produced and distributed by Gemvision that partnered with Stuller as the developer’s fulfillment company.

In looking ahead at the possibility of a ninetieth and centennial celebration, Fritz said: "you become an old business by always staying new."

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