It was 1976 when Milly and Carl Gandia opened Greenwich St. Jewelers in downtown New York Metropolis, a block and a half south of the World Commerce Heart. Over practically three many years, they constructed a base of loyal purchasers who flocked to the store for repairs and customized items.
However when the towers fell on 9/11, the unspeakable devastation additionally touched their beloved retailer. The structural harm sustained compelled the Gandias to shut for nearly a 12 months, and after they lastly reopened simply two blocks from their unique location, they discovered the world drastically modified.
“It was actually arduous to have a enterprise in that neighborhood within the [first] few years after 9/11,” Jennifer Gandia, now co-owner of Greenwich St. Jewelers along with her sister Christina Gandia Gambale, tells Entrepreneur. “We used to joke about tumbleweeds coming down the road. It was very quiet.”
On the time, Gandia was working in advertising at a cosmetics firm, however she left that place in 2003, placing her abilities to make use of at her father or mother’s store. Gandia Gambale, nonetheless in school then, watched the “camaraderie” take form and wished to hitch in too. So, after graduating from GIA with a gemology diploma and dealing at a few totally different firms, that is precisely what she did.
Alongside the way in which, each sisters have realized so much about what it takes to construct again and persevere within the face of staggering but distinct challenges spanning many years.
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“There was at all times a ‘Let’s strive it, let’s examine’ mentality. And I feel that basically allowed us to outlive in these moments.”
In that preliminary interval post-9/11, Gandia says yearly was vital. Greater than something, it was about “conserving afloat,” which included using the help companies accessible to companies impacted by the assaults. One of many packages supplied a coach to combine extra expertise into the enterprise, finally inspiring them to revamp their stock course of and set up a web site in 2006.
Gandia’s advertising background additionally performed a big position within the enterprise’s build-back.
“I used to be constantly in search of methods to let folks know that we have been open and what we do,” Gandia explains. “We’re a service enterprise — we offer to the group with jewellery restore, watch restore. Folks have been nonetheless having birthdays; they have been nonetheless getting engaged. And folks wished to help native companies.”
Greenwich St. Jewelers joined Metropolis Search, a now-defunct assessment platform much like Yelp, for additional publicity, and obtained in on the digital advertising recreation, which was comparatively cheap on the time.
“We have been early adopters of that,” Gandia says, “and it paid off.”
Greenwich St. Jewelers had as soon as relied on clients within the instant neighborhood — however the brand new advertising period flipped that customary on its head.
“Now, we have been pulling folks in actually from all around the metropolis,” Gandia says, “generally from Brooklyn or Connecticut. In order that was one of many methods we began to develop past our neighborhood, which we needed to do for survival.”
Being in “survival mode” meant making an attempt no matter may work, together with opening the store on the weekends — one thing the Gandias had by no means carried out earlier than.
“It is a testomony to all of us, and particularly our dad and mom — when shifts needed to occur, or we would have liked to pivot, everybody very a lot had an open thoughts and was prepared to strive,” Gandia Gambale says. “There was at all times a ‘Let’s strive it, let’s examine’ mentality. And I feel that basically allowed us to outlive in these moments.”
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Picture Credit score: Courtesy of Greenwich St. Jewelers
“For founders and people who find themselves going by means of this scary time, look inside your small business for the issues which might be type of recession-proof, if that is potential.”
That willingness to pivot wherever potential was obligatory only a few years later when the 2008 recession hit.
As soon as once more, Gandia drew on her cosmetics background to navigate the chaos. Aware of the “lipstick impact” — the phenomenon of individuals persevering with to splurge on small luxuries, like lipstick, throughout occasions of financial disaster — Gandia wished to use that logic to the household enterprise. What’s going to people who find themselves used to coming in purchase with out interested by it an excessive amount of? The reply required some flexibility.
“For a time, we introduced in product strains that weren’t what we usually offered,” Gandia says. “So we introduced what’s referred to as bridge or style product, so it was nonetheless made with gem stones, however perhaps it was gold vermeil or sterling silver.”
Greenwich St. Jewelers additionally constructed out its bridal choices as a result of, simply as was the case within the uncertainty following 9/11, some issues, like folks getting married, are fixed regardless of the circumstances.
After all, that reality stays simply as related in the present day, as inflation and recession fears go away many enterprise homeowners questioning what, precisely, their subsequent strikes needs to be.
“For founders and people who find themselves going by means of this scary time, look inside your small business for the issues which might be type of recession-proof, if that is potential,” Gandia advises. “Even when it is not one thing that is going to develop you a large number, however simply goes that can assist you survive lean occasions, and focus your consideration and time on that.”
Moreover, Gandia recommends conserving the strains of communication between your small business and its companions open and productive. “Take the time to attach with [your partners] and see in case you can anticipate points that you just may need,” she says. “Discuss methods to get by means of this factor collectively if there are issues — if there is a money move drawback, if there’s a listing drawback. What can we do to work collectively to maintain each of our companies going?”
Picture Credit score: Courtesy of Greenwich St. Jewelers
“We have been right here earlier than, and we are able to do that once more, so let’s put our heads collectively and see what has to occur.”
In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic introduced Greenwich St. Jewelers with challenges each outdated and new.
Gandia Gambale remembers panic setting in: Not solely was the enterprise’s instant outlook unsure, however the nature of the well being disaster got here with further hurdles.
“I feel what helped us instantly in our thought course of was like, ‘Okay, we have been right here earlier than, and we are able to do that once more,'” Gandia Gambale says. “So let’s put our heads collectively and see what has to occur.”
Regardless of having a web site, the majority of Greenwich St. Jewelers’ enterprise happened in-store, so a speedy pivot to distant transactions was important.
“We began doing digital appointments in a short time,” Gandia Gambale says. “We occurred to be ready to launch a brand new web site round that very same time. So we pushed that ahead to be sure that that web site was up and operating inside a month of being closed.”
“I bear in mind one of many first conversations was like, ‘Okay, we have to tech everybody up massive time,'” Gandia provides. “We have been sending our employees iPads and ensuring that they had what they wanted at dwelling. We did should furlough and lay off some folks.”
Gandia and Gandia Gambale needed to translate the in-store expertise that earned them rave opinions into an equally spectacular digital one, and, fortuitously, well-practiced in rising to the surprising event, they have been in a position to do exactly that.
The sisters and co-owners of Greenwich St. Jewelers have seen so much over the many years, and, like all entrepreneurs and enterprise leaders, they know they should be ready for no matter comes their approach subsequent. However take it from them — with a little bit of agility and cautious planning, even the most important enterprise challenges may be overcome.
“A giant piece of recommendation that I may give to different entrepreneurs is to know your small business from the monetary aspect,” Gandia Gambale says. “Perceive the place your bills are, what’s fastened, what’s variable, and plan for 3 situations: The one the place you develop, the one the place you keep constant and the one the place you are beneath.”