It’s All Relative: Rising Sons



In the late 1930s, John H. Epp was a full-time warehouse worker at Piggly Wiggly/Safeway, the nation’s first self-service grocery store, supplementing his income by selling watches and men’s shavers door-to-door. In 1939, he outgrew his briefcase and opened a small shop, and three years later moved operations to Notre Dame Avenue—where Independent ­Jewellers still operates today. John’s son Ernest joined the business in 1970, and Ernest’s sons Jonathan and Jeremy eventually followed suit. With a brand-new location at the Polo Park shopping center, the Epps are hoping to attract a new, youthful clientele with an extensive bridal selection and big-name watches.

IN THE BEGINNING…

Ernest: After graduating from the university, I began working in the family business doing whatever I could, from licking stamps and sweeping floors to running errands. One of the first things I noticed about my father and the way he managed the business was his soft-sell approach. And my father hired good people, one of whom was a store manager who became my mentor. He taught me more about the business than anyone else in the store—including my father.

Jeremy: I’ve only been with the business for about 18 months. At Independent, we have staff who have been with us for five to 40 years. This is a great environment in which to learn. But it’s a challenge walking that fine line between being the boss’ son and being a staff member when working with so many experienced people.

Jonathan: Early on, I made a decision to join the family business. This resolve was strengthened during my years studying commerce at the University of Manitoba. I loved the idea of being my own boss, and the travel appealed to me. What I hated was putting all of my eggs into one basket. This business is risky. I was only about 60 percent in…but my dad told me I had to be 150 percent in. So I decided to roll the dice.

Success Strategy

Ernest: We’ve been in the Polo Park location since the early ’80s. For many years it was mainly a watch and clock store, but that changed in 2003 when we doubled the size and made it into a full-service jewelry store. We’re committed to staying in the mall, and we think it has the potential to reach a younger demographic. When Safeway took out its 40,000-square-foot store, the mall owners asked if we wanted to move, so we took that opportunity to relocate closer to two fashion outlets: Forever 21 and BCBG Max Azria.

Jeremy: We’re putting in brands that will attract younger customers, such as Scott Kay, Hearts On Fire, Canadian Ice, and a Swarovski shop-in-shop. 

Jonathan: Once we get a good product mix and put in place the right staff to educate, inform, and convert bridal and watch sales, this store will be a tremendous asset. There are no high-end ­jewelers in this mall. Our goal is to make Polo Park a destination store for people in the area.

SKILL SETS

Ernest: Both boys have different management styles and talents.

Jeremy: I have a lot of ideas, but I don’t always have the most viable or best approach in executing them. That’s where Jonathan comes in. He helps to keep me grounded and not bankrupt.

Jonathan: Jeremy is a better sales­person than I am. He’ll have about five to six ideas and share one or two with me. Together, we’re always thinking of what can be done for the store.