Volume 16 • Issue 31 | December 30 - January 8, 2004

Home for the holidays

All in the family and optimistic for 2004

While many of us flock to suburban malls or uptown to shop for the holidays, we may be overlooking some very fine shops right here in our neighborhood. As many of our local retailers continue to struggle in the wake of 9/11, we have decided to spotlight some of them this holiday season. This is the final article of the series.

By Abby LaTour

Downtown Express Photo by Elisabeth Robert

A family business: Carl Gandia, of Greenwich Jewelers foreground. Daughter Jennifer, left, and wife Milly are behind him.

In 2004, Carl Gandia will be watching women’s right hands.

“The right hand ring is a style that hasn’t matured but I think it’s going to be important over the next few months,” said Gandia.

Gandia, along with his wife, Milly, own Greenwich Jewelers on Trinity Place and right hands aren’t the only thing they are watching. They anticipate customer demand. One needs only to see what celebrities are wearing in fashion magazines to find out what trends to expect in jewelry, said Gandia. At the moment, he is expecting continued demand for chandelier earrings, both elaborate with diamonds and plain gold and he thinks that diamond tennis bracelets will probably also be good sellers.

Gandia, however, said that lately he is leaving this up to his daughter, Jennifer, who joined the family business this year.

The family has owned the store for nearly three decades, relocating to 64 Trinity Place last year.

Sales this holiday season, the most important time of the year for most retailers, have been slightly disappointing, Gandia said. Although they will probably be on par with last year, he had hoped they would be better. Indicators in recent months show the U.S. economy improving, but Gandia said he has yet to see this boost business.

“People are still being cautious. There have been a lot of job cuts and those who have jobs are afraid of losing theirs. We used to have women coming in on their lunch hours, spotting something, and saying, ‘I’ve got to have that.’ Now you really have to sell,” he said.

But he is upbeat about business in 2004.

“All economic indicators are pointing in that direction. Employment is up. All people have to do is leave their safety nets for a moment.”

The Gandias have found new customers among the residents in Battery Park City who have repopulated the area since September 11. Tourists are coming to the financial district in droves. Still, there are far fewer office workers rushing about on too-short lunch hours.

As for many downtown business owners, September 11 ushered in a time of upheaval and uncertainty for the Gandias. They had just celebrated 25 years in business at 118 Greenwich St, steps from the World Trade Center. Structural damage prevented them from reopening and they were forced to close for nine months. With the help of grants and a loan to revive small businesses downtown they reopened nearby at Trinity Place.

The Gandias kept records of customer addresses and phone numbers and notified them about the new store. It was a bigger place with more display space and busier pedestrian traffic. Its grand opening last year ended up lasting three weeks and was marked by a spate of ‘just because’ buying as customers trickled back to show their support.

Behind the loyal base of repeat customers is an ability to instill confidence and trust in customers, superior quality and a range of services, Gandia said.
“Sometimes we let people come in the back room and watch as we size their ring or as I set a diamond if that’s what it takes. To many people a piece of jewelry is an heirloom and they don’t want to leave it with just anyone.”

Gandia is a model-maker by trade, an expert in making a piece of jewelry from a drawing. After 20 years of vocational training and working for other manufacturers, he decided to open his own store. He bought an existing business called Albert Jewelers in 1976. Both he and his wife, who have been married 35 years, were born in Puerto Rico but raised in the United States. Besides Jennifer, they have an older son and a younger daughter.

When Jennifer decided to leave a job in public relations and join the family business, she brought marketing experience with her. She has set up corporate discount programs, offering workers of subscribing businesses a discount on merchandise.

One company the Gandias are reaching out to is Deutsche Bank, which was across the street from Greenwich Jewelers at its former location. Many of their customers worked at the bank which has since moved to 40 Wall Street.

“Many Deutsche Bank staff are coming back. Even though it’s a longer walk, my customers still venture out,” Gandia said.

Gandia said he has weathered other difficult times and is determined to press on. For example, times were also tough after stock markets crashed worldwide in 1987. Gandia said he felt an impact for years on his business after tens of thousands of financial workers were laid off in lower Manhattan.

“We were hanging on by the skin of our teeth for awhile. But I feel encouraged now. I have been through this before. I at least know how to keep my head above water. I have every feeling 2004 is going to be a good year,” Gandia said.


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