Robbins Bros. CEO: ‘Chapter 11 Is Behind Us’

Andy Heyneman, president and CEO of Robbins Bros., spoke to JCK just after a court allowed Robbins Bros. Jewelry, an affiliate of investment firm Weston Presidio, to purchase 10 of its 16 stores, after the chain filed for Chapter 11. (The rest were purchased by Canada’s Spence Diamonds.) Heyneman, who was president of the chain prior to bankruptcy and will continue heading it, spoke about his plans for the future.

Where is Robbins Bros. in terms of the Chapter 11 process?

Our process has been completed. Chapter 11 is behind us. We are now what we refer to as “newco,” which is the new Robbins Bros. Our transaction with Weston Presidio officially closed last week. We are now free and clear. We are out of bankruptcy, and, for the first time in a long time, breathing deeply and sleeping well at night. We are a newly owned company and very excited about the future.

Will anything change?

This has been a real humbling experience. To say it’s been difficult has been an understatement. So we are going to be very careful and prudent so we don’t get to this point again. We are doing a lot internally, restructuring the expense and the cost structure of the business. Many of the disciplines that we’ve picked up in Chapter 11 we are going to adhere to. Things like watching every nickel and making every dollar do the work of 10.

Candidly [in the past], when we began to grow we extended ourselves thinking that our current track record would be a sure sign of what we’d accomplish in the future. We were all kind of caught by surprise by the economic perfect storm. We have to run the business based upon the lowest set of expectations rather than the highest. We are taking a very realistic view and realistic approach to the business.

Our digital capability is something we’ve been very focused on over the last year. We really need to get down to what moves the dial for us from a creative standpoint. Any business in our segment needs to be much more inclusive to the woman in the relationship and recognize that she has just as much a decision in this process. In the early days our marketing was much more geared to the guys and didn’t really resonate well with the woman. But now the woman is just as involved in this purchase from an emotional and financial perspective.

One thing we don’t want to change is the way we treat our customers. We have to be open and welcoming. When people come to us, it becomes a seminal moment. It’s not uncommon for our sales associates to be invited to the wedding. I don’t know where else that happens.

Will Steve Robbins still be involved in the company?

Steve will continue to be emotionally and spiritually involved in this company. But he is not involved in the company on a day-to-day basis. For the first time he is having the opportunity to spend some time with his family. He was instrumental in helping us achieve this goal. Just this morning, I wrote him a note thanking him for being a mentor for me. Even in the midst of this difficult time he was a tremendous teacher.

What happened with the Chicago stores purchased by Spence Diamonds?

Although Spence bought the Chicago and Houston markets, they did not choose to operate the Chicago stores. There were huge ups and downs in this process. And one of the very difficult aspects was having to say goodbye to some very dedicated and loyal people. I wish there was a way to have achieved this end goal without having to make those very difficult decisions.