It’s All Relative: London, Ontario’s Nash Jewellers

At Nash Jewellers, staff is treated like family, and customers are part of a community

When John A. Nash borrowed $500 to open his eponymous store in 1918, he met instant success. Then he met the Great Depression. Nash Jewellers survived—the enterprising Nash established a recession-friendly trade-up program called “Grow Your Diamond”—and thrived, thanks in no small part to the celebrity-athlete status of his son John B. (A world-class golfer who also excelled in badminton and curling, John B. joined the family business and helped brand the Nash name in the London, Ontario, market.) When John C. took over in 1976, he made some big changes. Yet one thing he and his son Colin have kept in place: John A.’s “Grow Your Diamond” initiative.

In the Beginning…

John: I entered the business after a 12-year teaching career, inheriting a very senior staff; the average age was 65. We had a store manager who had held that position for 60 years. He was 89 when I asked him to retire. When I looked around at my staff, I realized I wasn’t in charge of a jewelry store, I was running a retirement home.

Colin: When I started, there was no special treatment. I was averaging 10-hour days. I learned about gemstones on my own by examining them under a microscope. Whenever possible, I assisted the goldsmiths. Working at the store is like working at McDonald’s—there’s always something to do.

Making Changes

John: As the new “principal,” my initial decisions were awkward. The 1¼-hour  lunches had to be cut back, and we needed to do away with morning and afternoon coffee breaks. I had to find new, young sales associates, and offered the GIA Diamond Grading Course to all staff. The next difficult decision was removing commission and shifting to profit-sharing. It took about five years to get where we needed to be.

Colin: One of my first big decisions was bringing back Rolex. We carried it in the 1940s, but dropped it when we lost the exclusive. We brought Rolex back and picked up other brands, including TAG Heuer and Mikimoto. The Nash Jewellers name only goes so far. These days, people are looking for brands.

Lessons Learned

John: Over the years, I’ve tried to run our business objectively: Everyone is treated like family. My father also taught the importance of being calm and diplomatic as a manager. He was always relaxed—a quality I have maintained.

Colin: The advice that has stayed with me is, “You’re always on stage.” When people are in your store, it’s all up front: how you present yourself, how you treat your staff, how the customer is treated. If I lost control of these principles for even a second, I could lose a customer. 

Community Service

Colin: We’ve been making strategic cuts to advertising and doing more community outreach, with a focus on health care and education. Facebook helps open our business to the public while making them aware of these efforts.

John: You don’t get into this business to make a lot of money. But one thing we do get is relationships with our staff and the community. Community outreach is Colin’s passion. That’s how I see our business prospering—through ever-increasing community involvement.

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