How onetime wholesaler Peter Pritsker parlayed his love of diamonds into a family business
Peter Pritsker, co-owner of Cranston, R.I., fine jewelry store Providence Diamond, fell in love with the diamond business long before he became a retailer. The 71-year-old built his jewelry career on the wholesale side—notably at M. Fabrikant & Sons, which was the largest diamond wholesaler in the United States in the 1980s. “At the time, M. Fabrikant didn’t have a New England sales rep,” Pritsker recalls. “So I approached the owner at a convention and he agreed to a trial period at $200 a week draw. Even then, it wasn’t a lot of money.” But the soft-spoken salesman didn’t disappoint, and eventually cultivated a large clientele. As the ’90s began, Pritsker and his wife, Marcia, decided to take the leap into retail by opening a small shop in Warwick, R.I. Soon after, the store decamped to Garden City Center, one of Cranston’s toniest retail centers, where it’s located today. The then-small business quickly turned into a family affair. By 1997, the pair’s kids, Dan and Suzanne, were working full time at the store. And in 2013, Suzanne’s husband, Brandon Salomon, came on to oversee operations. The store’s hardworking second generation now effectively handles the shop’s day-to-day. But even when he’s at his vacation home in Florida, Peter regularly tunes in to the store’s live camera feed to keep an eye on things. “We’ve given the kids more and more responsibility over the years, so at this point we really can get away,” he says. “But I’m always there when I’m needed. And I always know what’s going on.”
Peter: We really didn’t know if Suzanne and Dan would join the business. Sue started out slowly with us, but is very active in the business now. She really is a great merchandiser. We’re in New England, not in Miami. New England is conservative, and she knows certain things will sell and certain things won’t. Dan introduced our store to social media and is involved in buying for our estate collection. He’s very, very good at it. They both bring an understanding of technology that my wife and I just don’t have, and that’s been important for us.
Suzanne: I majored in advertising and minored in photography at Emerson College, and I had no intentions of going into the business. I was sure I’d be a photographer. Then I really thought it out and realized it would eventually be just Dan and I, which sounded [appealing]. I moved home right after college and started working full time.
Dan: I graduated Bryant University in 1996 and came into the business that September. It was always fun for me. I studied business management, and they were one of the first colleges to have a special track that focused on managing a family business. My main goal in 1996 was to computerize us. My parents were working with carbon tricolor receipts. I was in the back room categorizing stuff for months.
Suzanne: When I first came on, it was hard. It felt like my role was a little vague. I finally found my niche when we brought on David Yurman—I started doing the buying for the collection and learning how to buy and merchandise. And obviously getting Rolex was a big boon. Once you have Rolex, it’s a whole new world.
Dan: Learning a trade and being mentored under my father was the most important thing I had to do when I started. My desk was right next to his on purpose. I listened to all his phone conversations on speakerphone. My father always taught me to make sure you give people the time of day and respect them. The biggest challenge coming in was a lack of knowledge—just not knowing things. Becoming my own businessperson? It took 10 years for me to get really comfortable with that.
Parents Peter and Marcia Pritsker with Dan and Suzanne
Dan: My father is smart, patient, and in control. He doesn’t let the little things bother him, and he’s very fair and courteous. I’ve had employees come up to me and say, “Your father’s the best boss I’ve ever worked for.” He’s very not in their face—he trusts his employees. I like to think we have a similar style. We’re not a corporate-type store. When old friends come into town, they find me at the store, not my house.
Suzanne: My dad is really quiet, but when he says something, you listen. We butt heads sometimes because I’m a buyer and he’s the money guy! I admire my mom because she’s fun, patient, and easygoing. She was the store’s original operations manager and is still a salesperson and buyer. She helped build the business from the ground up. Brandon is amazing at facilitating communication between the family and the staff. That’s where he excels. Dan does a lot of the estate jewelry buying and he’s amazing with numbers. He’s great with customers and really makes them feel comfortable. He’s also very supportive of my ideas.
Dan: I admire Sue as a successful working mother—I think that’s very difficult in today’s age. She has a great eye for jewelry and sourcing. She’s smart.
Peter: My favorite part of working with my family is sitting down over a meal and discussing business—ways we can go with certain things and things we can do going forward. The challenges? I’m respected by my kids, but a father-son discussion is a little different than an owner-employee discussion. Sometimes it can go a little over the line because Dan knows he can get away with it. [Laughs]
Suzanne: Brandon and I try not to talk about work at home, but it’s easier said than done. But I do love being able to work with him; we have the same goals and we’re both working for our two kids—to build something for them if they want it. Our kids are 2 and 4 years old and they know what a citrine is and what a sapphire is.
Dan: Camaraderie is my favorite part of working with my family. We all trust each other and really like each other. My mother did a very good job raising us.