A son follows in his father’s footsteps taking the reins of a five-decade-old family business
When Dick and Louise Eiseman went into the fine jewelry business in 1963, “we had a couple of cases in a department store,” recalls Louise. Now, Eiseman Jewels in Dallas is one of the most influential independent jewelry retailers in the United States, with a long track record of introducing new collections to market and the distinction of being luxury mall NorthPark Center’s only original tenant still standing. The couple’s son, Richard, has been at the helm of the company for more than two decades; he transitioned into the role of owner in the late 1980s, when his father’s health declined due to Parkinson’s disease (Dick passed away in 1996). Richard runs the business, but collaborates with Louise, now 85, on marketing and philanthropic endeavors. Louise says it has been gratifying to see Richard take Eiseman to new heights (e.g., a major recent expansion that included the addition of a Rolex shop-in-shop). But she also takes pleasure in seeing shades of her late husband’s personality and business style in her son. “Dick was a very well-loved gentleman,” says Louise. “And Richard is very, very much like him.”
Richard: I’ve been working in the business for 42 years. I started when I was 13, stacking watch boxes and running packages to the gift-wrap department. Did I always know I would take it over? I don’t think kids in the ’70s had a vision of where they would end up, like they do today. I went to grad school, went to GIA, and when Dad got sick, he left the business much sooner than we all anticipated. I wish I had had more time to work with him.
Louise: When Richard was growing up, we used to pay him his allowance if he would stack watch boxes on Saturdays. Dick and I talked business to the children like they were part of the firm. They got a lot by osmosis.
WORKING IT OUT
Louise: When Richard started, he was obviously the boss’ son, and some people criticized him. Finally, one day [we took him] to lunch and Richard thought he was going to be promoted to manager. We sat him down and said, “You are not managerial material.” [Laughing] He looked so shocked! After that he was fine. It just took one little lesson and he straightened right out.
Richard: In most family businesses, there’s a lot of give-and-take that makes it successful. I’ve never felt second-guessed. In fact, I felt like my mom and dad were going to let me make my own mistakes and never point them out—which is unique. To this day, my mom and I will disagree every once in a while, but we always land on the same page.
Richard: Mom has definitely been a cornerstone of the business when it comes to keeping an eye on our culture and the community. She’s the face in the community. She’s a smart cookie.
Louise: I will always admire Richard for the way he handled things when Dick was so sick with Parkinson’s. He never said, “Daddy, you’re not well enough to come into the store.” He just said, “Come in every morning.”