The owners and staff of Johnston Jewelers in Seminole are, from left, Doug Johnston, Michele Whitney, Chris Stivers, Sherry Johnston and Grant Johnston.
SEMINOLE – Forty years ago, William Johnston moved to Seminole, opened a jewelry store and began a business that has now spanned three generations.
Johnston Jewelers, 10401 Seminole Blvd., is celebrating its 40th anniversary this fall and if the enthusiasm expressed by the latest generation of Johnston’s, 40 more years is not beyond the realm of possibility.
Grant Johnston, 29, is William’s grandson and has been involved in running the business since 1999. His dad Doug, 52, is still very much involved in the business that he joined when he was 16, nearly 34 years ago. But it all began with William Johnston.
William learned watch making when he was in the Army during World War II. After that stint he went to watch-making school and opened a jewelry store in Seaford, N.Y. in 1948. Two years later he moved to Florida and worked in various places for various companies until he opened Johnston Jewelers in Seminole.
In 1972 the first store was located in the plaza at Park and Seminole boulevards where the Burlington Coat Factory is now located. They moved to the current location on Seminole Boulevard in 1981.
William Johnston, 90, retired some time ago, but his company continues to be operated by his son and grandson. His son, Doug, as a teenager, began hanging out at the store after school and took a liking to it. He began to study custom design work and manufacturing and became part of the business. His son Grant got his start much the same way.
Grant Johnston speaks with confidence as he relates how the company has managed to weather the recent downturn in the economy.
“We’ve had the same faces here for all these years,” he said. “We’re family and our name is what we have. So we have to give service and loyalty to our customers if we expect to get loyalty back.”
It must be working because Grant says 90 percent of the company’s business is repeat or referrals.
It may come as no surprise to learn where the focus lies in the jewelry business.
“The biggest part of our business is bridal,” said Grant. “We’ve seen a trend where bigger stones are in and younger people are buying them, they are buying nice big extravagant stones. The average engagement ring today sells from between $2,000 and $7,000, and that’s being bought by a young man just starting out.”
Grant recalls the day when gold wasn’t as expensive as it is now.
“Back in the 1970s gold wasn’t as high,” he said. “It was $33 an ounce back then. Today it is $1,784 an ounce and we’re approaching an all-time high. Six months ago it was $1,900 an ounce and it is headed that way again.”
The change in gold prices has caused a change in the jewelry business.
“As soon as the gold prices went up a lot of people started liquidating gold, so we started to buy it from them,” said Grant. “Nowadays we aren’t selling as much gold, but people are still buying stones, they just aren’t buying that 20 gram gold chain, it is just too expensive.”
According to Grant, for the most part, not much has changed in the jewelry business over the years.
“Just like everything else, styles change from time to time,” he said. “But diamonds are timeless, mountings may change, colors of gold may change but the saying ‘diamonds are forever’ really indicates that overall not much had changed.”
Except for one thing perhaps: “There was a phase a while back when people were into nugget Jewelry,” he said. “Nuggets were formed when gold was melted into a mold, the shape of a nugget. They were big chunks that men wore them on rings, and they were on links for bracelets. Now very few people want a nugget any more.”
The future of the jewelry business, according to Grant, is sound.
“We’ll always be around due to the nature of what we are selling,” he said. “Gold and diamonds are international and will always hold their value. And even when prices fall occasionally there is always somebody ready to move in to buy it.”
The future for Johnston Jewelers in particular, seems assured with future generations of the family.
“I have three sons, 8-year-old twins and a 2-year-old,” said Grant. “I would hope they can keep the business going. My goal is to grow this thing and possibly branch out into more stores in different parts of the state, and have something they can take over and each have a store. We’re up in the air on future plans, we might just want to keep our eggs in this one basket, but we do have growth in our future.”
Johnston Jewelers is planning an invitation only customer appreciation event on Oct. 6 to mark their 40th year in business.