Schubot Jewellers: Doors, Bees And A Treasure Trove

This Troy, Mich., jewelry family quietly serves its community with top-drawer merchandise, service and charitable support.

Yes, Jules R. Schubot Jewellers/ Gemologists really does have Lalique crystal doors. And yes, Sydell Schubot is the woman who wears the bees.

The doors and bees are two things for which this upscale jeweler is known both in the industry and in its community. The doors – actually two sets of thick, burglarproof glass with Lalique crystal handles – enclose a sleek charcoal gray marble security foyer. The diamond, ruby and sapphire bee replicas perch on Sydell Schubot’s shoulder every day.

However, there’s much more to the 78-year-old business, which resembles a small museum of precious objets d’arts more than a traditional jewelry store. Jules R. Schubot founded the company and became the personal jeweler to industrialist Henry Ford II and celebrities such as Tony Martin and Cyd Charisse. His son Douglas and daughter-in-law Sydell took over the day-to-day operations in 1970. Their son Brian joined the business in 1985.

The store is virtually invisible to passers-by; only a small sign on the office building it occupies gives a clue to what’s inside. This has been the store’s location since its move from downtown Detroit 20 years ago and, as long as the current Schubots run it, this is where it’s likely to stay. They turned down an opportunity to move across the street into the equally tony Somerset Collection mall with such other top-drawer retailers as Barney’s New York, Saks Fifth Avenue, Louis Vuitton, St. John, Gucci and, coming soon, Nordstrom’s and a whole new gallery of stores. The Schubots feel their store is a

destination, not a browser’s paradise, and its current location helps maintain their clientele and their lifestyle. Neither Douglas, Sydell nor Brian particularly wants to pay mall rents or adhere to mall-dictated business hours.

The store is large and beautifully appointed, with wall displays of crystal by Lalique, Baccarat and other high-end makers. Cases are filled with relentlessly high-end jewels from such names as DeVroomen, Picchiotti, La Nouvelle Bague, Omar Torres, Henry Dunay, Michael Bondanza, Cartier, IWC, Chopard, Bulgari, Piaget, Breitling, Patek Philippe and Carrera y Carrera. There’s a selection of estate jewelry and important pieces in the tradition of Harry Winston, Van Cleef & Arpels and other great jewelry houses. The Schubots also carry fine writing instruments, Judith Lieber handbags and Tiffany pieces, even though the mall has a Tiffany store and a Saks with a much larger Lieber collection. (Schubot carries the lines as a service to customers so they don’t have to cross the street and look for parking at the mall, says Sydell.)

“My father always told me that the cheaper jewelry you sell, the more competition you will have, and the better jewelry you sell, the less competition,” Douglas Schubot said in a

profile of the store in the Oct. 16 issue of Crain’s Detroit Business. His strategy: offer the best merchandise, the best service and the best price.

Enhancing sales: Much of the business at Jules R. Schubot Jewellers/ Gemologists occurs off the showroom floor, via custom work and frequent, elegant parties to benefit charities. Last fall, for example, the store threw a party every month.

“The Magic of Platinum” evening in September was dedicated to fighting breast cancer. The evening included cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and a magical dance presentation showcasing jewelry by Michael Bondanza, Bernard Grosz, Martin Gruber for Nova, Simon Sobie & Co., Scott Kay Designs and Asch Grossbardt. Proceeds from ticket sales to the event benefited the Karamanos Cancer Institute, one of many charitable foundations the Schubots support.

Scarcely a month later, the Schubots hosted “It’s Hot, It’s Gold,” featuring the designs of Omar Torres, Hidalgo, Andrew Meyer, Kurt Wayne and Old World Chain. The World Gold Council and Departures magazine cohosted the event to benefit Haven, a county program for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse.

Party hats came out again for a November preview of holiday merchandise and celebration of the store’s 20th year in Troy. Watch designer Alain Silberstein and jewelry designer Leo DeVroomen made personal appearances, and the evening included a display of Italian gemstone jewelry and the creations of Carrera y Carrera. Designer Henry Dunay was the guest of honor at Schubot’s December bash.

“We could go out to a black-tie charity event several days every week of the year if we wanted to,” says Douglas Schubot. That’s how involved the store is with charity – not counting the endless requests for donations of money, goods or space.

Despite the seemingly constant round of parties, charity balls and travels, however, the Schubots stay relatively low-key at jewelry industry functions. They’re not frequent names on the industry lecture circuit, and they’re seldom on the dais at big industry dinners. They belong to the American Gem Society and are regulars at Basel and key U.S. shows. Douglas also is involved with the Michigan Retailers Association.

Still, most people in the industry continue to think of them in relation to the questions, “Isn’t she the bee lady?” and “Aren’t they the ones with Lalique doors?”