Like Father, Like Daughter at NOLA’s Hiller Jewelry

Following in her father’s footsteps led Lisa Biderman home to New Orleans

When recruiting daughter Lisa to work in the business, Hiller Jewelry president Joe Biderman said pretty much exactly what his father-in-law, Jonas Hiller, once said to him. “Let’s try it out for a year and see if you like it,” recalls Joe. The no-pressure tactic was successful on both counts. After working under Jonas for 14 years, Joe took over the Metairie, La., store in 1991. Now, five years into working at Hiller (alongside her aunt, Patti Hiller Lengsfield, and mom, Joan Biderman), Lisa says she’s found her calling in the intimate suburban New Orleans shop, which was founded by her great-grandfather, Alphonse, in 1918. “Because we’re family, everyone trusts each other,” she says. “And it feels really special that I can make my dad proud.”

Role Play

Joe: I run the business end and work with customers looking to sell diamonds, liquidate estates, and sell gold. A few years ago we had a much larger operation. Then we decided what we really wanted to do: work by appointment and focus on being a personal jeweler. We’re not a Pandora-type store. We set it up so we can spend the maximum amount of time with customers.

Lisa: I grew up in New Orleans, then went to the University of Colorado. But I came back after Hurricane Katrina. Now I focus on marketing, buying, PR, social media, and sales. Since we’re a smaller store, there’s not that salesperson following you around. People get a nice warm feeling when they come in.

Looking Forward

Lisa: When I started at the store I took some GIA courses, but I mainly learned from my dad. I’ve learned to listen to the customer and not try to sell them what you think they want. Customer loyalty has been another big lesson. Trying to get the youngest customer in the door is not what it’s about. We’re sustaining an almost-100-year-old business here.

Joe: It wasn’t much of a surprise when Lisa joined the business. And what dad wouldn’t be excited? 

A Fresh Take

Joe: Lisa’s added a different perspective. I wouldn’t want to be struggling at 62 trying to identify what to buy. I’m not active on Facebook or Twitter, and she really is. Also, she’s able to wait on customers in her age bracket, and that’s more comfortable for them. I come in and say “thank you” at the end, but I kind of stay out of it. When you have a good salesperson, you don’t meddle.

Lisa: I’ve been doing the radio ads, where I introduce myself as the daughter and connect the Biderman name to Hiller while telling the story of the store. It’s earned us a nice little following.

Mutual Admiration

Joe: I had to learn my daughter was capable of doing this and to accord her that respect. There’s none of Dad yelling across the store, “Lisa, get over here!”

Lisa: Family is family. We all get along well, but there’s no privacy. You learn to separate business from family and vice versa. We’re very lucky to have this.