Jorge Adeler, co-owner of Adeler Jewelers in Great Falls, Va., had always hoped his two daughters, Wendy and Valentina, would join the business he started with his wife, Graciela, in 1975. The sisters grew up in the store; as little girls, they sorted gemstones under display cases and trailed their parents around trade shows. So it seemed unfathomable to Jorge that, even as adults, they would ever work elsewhere. “I admire my American customers for having the spirit of sacrifice,” he says. “To actually leave the kids to be free and successful on their own—I don’t have that open-mindedness. I never, ever want them to be far.” The Argentinian-born retailer and jewelry designer’s ultimate wish came true in the 1990s when both daughters, following a period of professional exploration, returned to work full time at Adeler Jewelers. Wendy, the vice president of marketing and philanthropy for the company, is the official voice of the business; Valentina, meanwhile, serves as director of sales and business development—and, like her dad, designs and creates custom pieces.
TIES THAT BIND
Wendy: I thought I was going to be an attorney; then I came to the realization that I wanted to have a better life balance—one that allowed me to be more involved with my kids. I liked the aspect of spending the kind of time with them that our parents spent with us.
Valentina: I earned a B.A. in Spanish literature in the 1990s, but it wasn’t a good time to get a teaching job. Bribery always works well in our family, and dad was very convincing. I thought, if I [come on], I want to do something that he can’t do, so I got my graduate gemologist degree to do appraisals.
Jorge: We started as immigrants here, so we didn’t have all the beautiful comforts you have now—babysitters, summer camps. Our kids were an appendix to us. I used to give them stones and they had to choose the best one. They would spend hours with the caliper and scale to make sure they were choosing the best. It was magnificent training. And when they were 14 and 15, my wife and I opened up a store in Ocean City, Maryland, and they ran it for entire summers—seven days a week. They are top, top, top talents. They can really outperform me on every single level.
Jorge: Wendy is an amazing communicator and handles all the [social media]. She also heads up our philanthropy department. Val brings that unique point of view that allowed us to be more complete in our decision-making. She designs for the showcases and is on the floor most of the time. Graciela is very much involved in the business still, too.
Wendy: We support every school and church within our community, and we select larger organizations to support as well. My father always raised us to believe that this country has been extremely generous to us and we have an obligation to give back.
Valentina: Until recently, dad’s design style was much more traditional and I was a little more avant-garde. But he’s really branched out. My pieces would stick out a little because they would be out of his usual mold. But lately they’re harder and harder to find in the cases.
Wendy: As Old World as my father is, he’s extremely forward-thinking. Everything is somewhat calculated. I think he looks at his day, his week, and then five years forward, asking “Where do we want to be?”
Valentina: I’ve learned resilience from my mom and dad. America is definitely the only place where they could have accomplished what they’ve accomplished. You have to have the personality, mind-set, and resolve to work hard, believe, and be honest. I’ve also learned that you approach every day with a positive attitude and sense of gratitude.
Jorge: Before you let in a new generation, you have to know that that’s what they want and what you want. You have to have the desire to have them around. Then you have to tailor your life around the goal of being together. So my ambition is to make the life around them as good as possible. In our case it works, and I go to bed every day thanking God for it. Above everything, you never apologize for loving them too much.
Wendy: I think there needs to be a tremendous amount of love and respect in order to make any business situation work. If you like being there and there’s respect and love, I think you’ll be able to work together. You have to be able to respect the other person’s opinions.
MAKING IT WORK
Wendy: There are obviously challenges and benefits to working with your family. Your dad knows you as a kid and sometimes wants to parent. But if you have a sick child, you can say, “It’s your grandson who’s sick.” I don’t know how many bosses would be as lenient about those family life things. That’s a blessing. My parents are so smart. They’ve given us our space and let us be who we are. I’m pretty convinced if I’d wanted to be a doctor, my dad would have opened a MinuteClinic next to Adeler. Get a diamond ring and a flu shot!
Valentina: I think there are far more benefits. With it just being the four of us here, we’re very, very close. Of course, it’s not always easy for dad. He’s the only male with three women and four female dogs.
Jorge: Every morning I put on my goggles and jump into the hormone bath and swim to my office. But when people ask me when it was I knew I wanted my daughters to work with us, I say, “The minute they were born.”