When your 8-year-old is making earrings, it’s a good sign he’s on his way into the jewelry biz
Ryan Cole started handcrafting fine jewelry before he was tall enough to ride a roller-coaster. His parents, Dean and Denise, founded Portland, Maine, fine jewelry store D. Cole Jewelers in 1981. And Dean, a bench jeweler, often could be found working in his basement studio when Ryan and his little sister, Emily, came home from school.
“I built a little area for him in my studio so he could hammer away every afternoon,” Dean recalls. At 8 years old, Ryan made a pair of earrings that his parents ultimately featured in an ad in a local paper. “People would come into the store asking to see the earrings made by the 8-year-old!” says Dean. Twenty-one years later, Ryan heads up the digital design duties at D. Cole while his wife, Lindsey, handles all marketing efforts. Emily joined the business straight out of college and currently manages the sales team and works with Denise on merchandising. “I get to work with my kids every day,” says Dean. “Having them close is the best part.”
All in the Family
Ryan: Jewelry was always part of our lives. I idolized [my dad] and sort of fell into it. I work most closely with my dad. We tend to think on the same wavelength, and we can communicate ideas quickly.
Dean: Ryan has a really good eye and understands how we can achieve certain end results in [design]. And he’s really good with customers—very calm and easy. Both he and Emily have brought us the tech—the design software, all the social media, and they developed the whole website.
Keeping It Real
Ryan: The hardest thing for me to learn is that it’s not about the styles I like, it’s about what sells. My dad said, “You want to like what you sell, but you also have to sell products that people want.” I finally got it.
Dean: You tend to expect more out of your family at work—you hold them to a little higher standard and you have to be careful not to expect too much.
Ryan: I do all computer-aided design and work on the bench most days. I also do all the photography and graphic arts for the store.
Dean: Emily started showing interest in the store the last couple of years of college. She brings a youthful point of view. She’s fashion-forward and has a keen style all her own. Where her mom and I are getting to the point where our style isn’t necessarily our customer’s style, she’s brought in a young attitude.
Dean: I have a friend who owns a company and no family can come work for him until they have a year under their belt working somewhere else. That I would highly recommend. Our children came directly into the business, so they don’t know what it’s like to work anywhere else. Let’s just say they both bring their dogs to work.