A Great Century of Rolling Stones

For 100 years now, Rosnov Jewelers has been selling fine gems and all the fabulous rest. How has it managed not to just stay in business, but thrive for a century? Fourth-generation owner David Rosnov's business ethic spells it out: personal service and excellent value at a fair price.

"My philosophy is a simple, direct and basic one: Take care of your customer," he said. "You can choose to advertise nonstop to the whole world and have 100 stores, but if you don't give your customers your attention and the very best service, what good is it?

"That's been our belief since the store was established by my great-grandfather Mendel, a Russian immigrant from Kiev, who was a watchmaker for the czars. He opened the store on Jeweler's Row in Philadelphia in 1906, specializing in watches, diamonds and gold jewelry. Several years later, his sons Marcus and Saul, my grandfather, took over the business and expanded it to include silverware, giftware and art objects."

The store earned a reputation for quality and service, in the process gaining the patronage of Philadelphia's elite, as well as a celebrity clientele that included Grace Kelly and Jerry Lewis.

"You have to not only know the product, but you have to be a professional about it because jewelry is one of those so-called 'blind products,' which means that it all appears 'blind' — or alike — to customers because jewelers everywhere can craft basically the same design using the same materials.

"So, you have to make it mean something, make it stand out to customers, make them 'see' it — and you do that by being someone to trust and someone who will stand behind the sale and behind the product," he explained.

Making a sale, while important, of course, is not only what it's about, he insisted.

"It's much more about keeping customers happy, advertising to them, telling them what you're offering, what you're doing, with service and care, while also providing maintenance for their jewelry," said Rosnov. "It's an old-school approach that makes us successful and can do the same for any business."

Rosnov, 46, a graduate of the University of Maryland's School of Business, who joined his father Mitchell in the family business in 1982, admitted he's loved it from the beginning — at age 14 — when he designed and sold his first piece of jewelry, an amethyst brooch. "My father didn't tell the customer it was designed by a teenager."

His wife, Abbe, also 46, is a saleswoman at the store; daughter Jessica, 19, a freshman at Syracuse University, has worked there at times; and son Scott, 16, is a 10th-grader. Other store staff are two full-time jewelers and two part-time salespeople.

In 1989, Rosnov purchased the business from his father — an insightful businessman who decided to abandon catalogues and vendors in favor of an all "in-house" inventory.

'Keep It Simple'

Over the years — his father had moved the store out of Philadelphia to Jenkintown in 1969 — there have been opportunities to expand, to be much bigger by opening multiple stores, but that idea doesn't appeal to Rosnov.

"Obviously, some big companies offer great customer service," but "I didn't want that because once you have more than one store, you're spending all your time trying to manage things, and not doing the one thing that makes you better and better — and that's serving customers directly to the fullest."

His clientele? "Our customers are blue-collar workers all the way up to CEOs, who range in age from 13 to people in their 70s, and most of them — I'd say 80 percent — are referrals," said Rosnov.

"And then there are the 13-year-olds, girls who are going to have their Bat Mitzvahs or have had them, who come to the store with their parents, or other family and friends, to choose a gift. These young women, these young people, represent the future of our business, the next generation of loyal customers."

With the store's next 100 years under way, Rosnov concluded: "I'd like to shop in a store like mine because we keep it simple, and because we're more efficient and more friendly than the big places." 



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