Owners of Bernie Robbins Jewelers Passing Business Down to Employees

The Bernie Robbins Jewelers location in Somers Point, New Jersey (Provided by Bernie Robbins Jewelers)

Bernie Robbins Jewelers opened in 1962. Over time, it grew to include five locations (today it has three: Somers Point, New Jersey, Villanova and Newtown). And in 1966, Bernie and Lorraine Rosenberg, the Jewish husband and wife who opened the jewelry store, were joined in their endeavor by their son-in-law, Harvey Rovinsky.

Rovinsky and his wife Madalyn still run the business today. (Maddy Rovinsky joined full-time in 1993 after a career as a teacher.) But over the next few months, she will turn 76 and he will turn 77.

They’ve been thinking about succession for two years. They just couldn’t find a successor. Their daughter is a doctor of psychology. Her husband is a real estate investor. A few interested buyers weren’t quite right, according to Rovinsky.

So, the Rovinskys decided to pass the business to the people who care the most about it: their longtime employees.

“The people who have been with us have been here 20-30 years. They run the business anyway,” Harvey Rovinsky said. “They understand the culture and they understand the process.”

Bernie Robbins Jewelers sells engagement rings, fashion and designer jewelry and watches, according to Rovinsky. The Rovinskys recently completed a 60% off sale that will help them turn the business over debt-free. They hope to transition the stores to their employees in the first quarter of 2024.

The Bernie Robbins Jewelers location in Somers Point, New Jersey (Provided by Bernie Robbins Jewelers)

But even after the employees become owners, Harvey Rovinksy will stay on to help them out.

“This will be a seamless transition. Nothing will change,” Rovinsky said.

The Rovinskys could have cashed out. But they wanted the business to go on.

“I’m selling diamonds now to the grandchildren of people I sold diamonds to,” Harvey said.

The Rosenbergs and the Rovinskys have always focused on building relationships, according to Harvey. They sell brands, such as David Yurman, because there’s a demand for them. Customers know what they are getting in a Yurman watch or bracelet.

There’s also a consistency to the customer experience at a Bernie Robbins store: They trust the Rovinskys to sell them high-quality products. They probably even know the owners. Harvey and Maddy are often on the floor.

“Our clients are our friends,” Harvey said.

Harvey and Maddy Rovinsky, the owners of Bernie Robbins Jewelers (Provided by Bernie Robbins Jewelers)

Due to a non-disclosure agreement, the Rovinskys cannot reveal the names of every employee who will be taking over. But Harvey described the team as “a half dozen people that have been in charge of our daily operations for 20 years.”

“This was not an altruistic decision,” he added. “This was a conscious decision.”

Steven Jaffe is one of the employees. He has been working at Bernie Robbins “just shy of 30 years,” he said. For much of that time, he has handled diamond buying.

He will continue to handle it after the transition. But he will also be a part owner with additional responsibilities. Each person in the ownership group will continue in the same role, according to Jaffe.

“That being said, there are other things with ownership that come along with it. Frankly, we haven’t had to be CEOs,” Jaffe said. “That’s why Harvey and Maddy are staying on as advisers and Harvey is going to be staying on as CEO. They’re helping us out as things move along.”

But ultimately, the decisions will belong to the team, according to Jaffe.

Maddy Rovinsky’s parents, Lorraine and Bernie Rosenberg, founded Bernie Robbins Jewelers in 1962. (Provided by Bernie Robbins Jewelers)

The diamond buyer has spent nearly 50 years of his adult life as a “soldier” in the retail industry, as he described it. He calls becoming the owner of a company “the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Jaffe is also undaunted by the challenge. The Rovinskys gave him the freedom to take ownership of diamond buying for years.

“He’s trusted me to do things almost without running it by him,” Jaffe said of Harvey Rovinsky. “He allowed me to do virtually all of these things on my own because I understood his business.”

Jaffe and his fellow employees are also intimately familiar with Bernie Robbins’ approach to business. They are the ones who carry it out every day. But they’ve also observed the Rovinskys carrying it out.

“Some owners are quasi-absentee. Not a day has gone by in the time I’ve worked for them that I haven’t spoken to one of them,” Jaffe said of the Rovinskys. “They’ve always been on the floor and observing and teaching us as to how their thought process is.”

“People can spend their money anywhere,” he added. “Our whole business is based on relationships.”

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