Growing up, Wayne Addessi, owner of Addessi Jewelers in Ridgefield, Conn., worked part time in his father’s jewelry stores. But his first official day in the business came as a surprise to his dad, Rick, who at the time owned the business with his brother, John. “He had been asking me to work there, and one day I put on a jacket and tie and just came in and surprised him,” Wayne recalls. “It would be a while before I was sure about joining the business, but I thought it was kind of a cool place to work.” The career stuck, and “as time passed, my dad and I grew in a lot of ways together—I worked with him every day for most of his life.” Rick passed away in 2013 (eight years after John passed), but his legacy, which includes building lasting relationships with customers, lives on in Wayne and his daughter, 23-year-old Kate Addessi. Kate, who’s currently finishing a degree in relational communications at Western Connecticut State University, works part time as a client consultant in the store and has contemplated the prospect of one day taking it over. Wayne thinks she’s on the right track. “Kate learned the business from the master—her grandfather,” he says. “She’s a good listener and is a caring person, just like he was.”
Wayne: My grandparents emigrated from Italy in the early 1900s. John, their eldest son, had to go to work to support the family—so he worked for a local jeweler. He eventually got a small collection of things together and rented space inside a TV repair shop. Two years later he rented a space on Main Street in Danbury, Connecticut. My father came to work for John in 1950, and together they had a partnership that lasted over 50 years. They just worked really hard and grew the company to five stores. I grew up in the business, working in different stores over the years. But I didn’t think I would ever want to be a jeweler. I went away for high school, and one day I came back and decided, let me give this a try. There were three brothers in the business, but they eventually split it up so each brother had his own store. My father and I had Ridgefield, and I officially took it over in 1995.
Kate: When I was in high school I started working at the store, and I’d do vacuuming and dusting shelves and that kind of thing. I started from the bottom, just like my dad and grandfather did. My grandfather taught me how to Windex the cases properly when I was a kid. And before I knew it, I was a client consultant and he was showing me how to interact with customers.
Wayne: When she was in high school, Kate worked in the store after school. At that time my sister Debbie was involved, and my father was there. Kate loved being around the family. And my father loved seeing her there.
Kate: I’ve been here on and off for eight years. I went out and experienced some other jobs, but I have always come back. I just prefer working for my dad, which a lot of people can’t say. He taught me that it’s not always about the sale—it’s always about the relationship. That’s what I keep with me when I’m working with customers.
Kate and Wayne Addessi chat with store manager Lorella Colonna.
Wayne: Kate has evolved in the business. She’s a natural now. She loves customers and working with the staff. My father was a great man and really knew how to talk to people, and Kate does too. Because whether you’re a butcher at a meat market or [you’re] in a jewelry store, you have to be able to get out from behind that counter and talk to people. You can’t stand there with a long look on your face. Come out and socialize.
Kate: I was always pretty shy. As I got older, I came into my own. But I have to credit my dad with helping me come out of my shell. We have a close relationship, and he’s always encouraged me to open up more. Now people can’t get me to shut up!
Wayne: Kate is very sincere and genuine. She takes her time with customers. She also has a lot of knowledge about the product.
Kate: My dad is honest and understanding. And I think our clients view our business as very honest and trustworthy because of him. We don’t hide anything, and even in online reviews we read that people describe us as trustworthy. He and I don’t agree on everything, but that happens in every family. Dad’s very good at separating the dad/boss thing. When I’m at work, he’s my boss. When we’re not at work, he’s my dad. I think that’s really important.
Wayne:?Recently, we came up with a campaign that uses [photos] and stories from our family and family history. We figured our customers are really sharing their occasions with us, which we love so much. We wanted to share our family with them, too.
Kate: That I keep coming back to the store is, for me, a big indicator that I’d like to stay in the business. If my dad wanted to hand the business down to me one day, that would be amazing. But if he wanted to sell it, I would still stay in the business. At one point, I told him I’d like to perhaps take it over, and he teared up a little. I think he would love it.