Life hasn’t been a bowl of cherries for Nagi Osta, but with his son’s help, it’s pretty darn good
As a young adult, Nagi Osta worked with his brother at a seafood restaurant in Florida. His father dealt in antiques, including some age-old jewels, but the jewelry business was hardly top of mind. Until, that is, Nagi woke up one day and had a life-changing epiphany: He wanted to become a jeweler. Before opening his first store in 1980, Nagi worked with three retail jewelers and a diamond wholesaler. In 2002, he bought a three-story, 7,500-square-foot building in Stamford, Conn.; half the space was for the showroom. Of his three children, his son Jeffrey is the only one who works alongside him at NAGI Jewelers—though service manager Jeffrey wouldn’t mind having his older brother and younger sister there, too. “Having three family members who share in my parents’ vision and passion would allow us to do great things,” he says.
Nagi: My first years in jewelry retail were some of the most difficult of my life. I was held up twice at gunpoint. What kept me going was flexibility, saving money, and managing my expenses. I didn’t let small, unexpected expenses eat at my fixed monthly expenses.
Jeffrey: I’ve been around the family business my entire life. In 2002, I went to college. While completing my degree, I honored my father’s request to work in two jewelry stores and one diamond wholesaler’s office. When I returned to the family business in 2007, I thought I knew it all. I was a little overconfident and didn’t take my entrance into the business as seriously as I should have.
Change Is Good
Nagi: For many years I was based in a strip mall next to pizza places and other stores that had nothing to do with our business. What was most important about the move [to a freestanding store] was the ability to brand ourselves. If I can’t brand myself and my staff, I’m just selling and making special orders. And that’s not long-term planning.
Nagi: [I’d like to] build a jewelry design studio in the basement. This would showcase some of our best custom work and show people how it’s made.
Jeffrey: My parents do most of the buying. This is something I’d like to be more actively involved in. For now, I’d like to do more with our website and the social media websites. I’d also like to evaluate vendors, find holes in our inventory, and become better at identifying the jewelry our customers want.
Under the (Family) Influence
Nagi: In Lebanon, my Uncle Jamil held the family together through many civil wars. His biggest influence was teaching me to always keep busy. I remember him taking me to the cherry fields as a child and working for nothing but fruit to eat at the end of the day. Doing my small part to bring them to market made me appreciate cherries all the more.
Jeffrey: My father is very thoughtful and methodical in his business decisions. A close second would be my mother—her toughness, dedication, and one-of-a-kind salesmanship is what motivates me. I learned sales techniques from her and business management from my father. As a team, I think we’re unstoppable.