Greenwich Street Jewelers was established by Milly and Carl Gandia in 1976 in the central business district of New York City, approximately one and a half blocks south of the World Trade Center. They were able to cultivate a following of devoted customers over the course of nearly three decades, who frequented the shop for repairs and orders of bespoke items.
However, the unimaginable destruction caused by the collapse of the twin towers on September 11 extended to their cherished store. Due to the structural damage that was experienced, the Gandias were forced to close their doors for almost an entire year. When they finally reopened their doors just two blocks away from their original position, they discovered that the surrounding region had undergone a significant transformation.
Jennifer Gandia, who now co-owns Greenwich St. Jewelers with her sister Christina Gandia Gambale, told Entrepreneur that it was “very hard” to run a business in that neighborhood in the “first few years” following 9/11. “It was incredibly hard to operate a business in that neighborhood,” she said. “Tumbleweeds rolling down the street was a common source of humor for us. It was extremely peaceful there.”
Gandia was working in marketing for a cosmetics firm at the time, but in 2003 she decided to leave that job and put her abilities to use in the store that her parents owned instead. Gandia Gambale, who was a student at the time, observed the development of the “camaraderie” and yearned to be a part of it herself. She obtained a degree in gemology from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), then worked at a few other businesses before deciding to pursue this career path.
Both of the sisters have picked up a lot along the way about what it takes to pick yourself up after being knocked down and to keep going no matter how difficult things get over the course of many years.
“There was perpetually an attitude of “Let’s try it, let’s see” about everything. And I believe that was the factor that ultimately helped us to live through these experiences.”
According to Gandia, each year following the events of September 11 was crucial during that early era. It was more important than anything else to “stay afloat,” which included making use of the support services that were made available to companies that had been impacted by the assaults. One of the programs provided a coach to help integrate more technology into the business, which ultimately inspired them to restructure their inventory process and build a website in the year 2006.
In addition, Gandia’s background in marketing was a very valuable asset to the company as it made its comeback.
“I was constantly looking for methods to let people know that we were open and what we do,” Gandia continues. “It’s important for people to be aware of both.” “We are a service-oriented company; among other things, we fix broken jewelry and watches for the local community. People were still getting engaged and having birthday parties. People were still having birthdays. And individuals desired to show their support for local companies.”
Greenwich St. Jewelers decided to participate in digital marketing when it was still relatively affordable and joined City Search, a now-defunct review platform that was comparable to Yelp. This move was made in order to gain further visibility for the business.
According to Gandia, “We were early adopters of that,” and he notes that “it paid off.”
Once upon a time, jewelers on Greenwich Street relied on clients located in the immediate area; however, the dawn of the modern marketing period flipped this traditional business model on its head.
“Now, we were dragging people in truly from all over the city, sometimes even from Brooklyn or Connecticut,” Gandia adds. “Now, we were pulling people in from all over the city.” Therefore, this was one of the ways we started to expand beyond our immediate area, which was something we needed to do in order to survive.”
The Gandias had never opened their shop on the weekends before, but they decided to give it a shot since they were in “survival mode,” which meant they were willing to attempt anything that might be successful.
“When shifts had to happen, or we needed to pivot, everyone very much had an open mind and was prepared to try,” Gandia Gambale recalls. “It’s a credit to all of us, and especially to our parents.” “There was perpetually an attitude of “Let’s try it, let’s see” about everything. And I believe that was the factor that ultimately helped us to live through these experiences.”
“For folks who are going through this terrifying moment, I want to encourage you to seek within your business for the things that are somewhat recession-proof, if that’s possible.”
When the recession of 2008 struck just a few years later, having the willingness to pivot whenever possible was vital.
Gandia once more relied on her skills in the cosmetics industry to guide her through pandemonium. Gandia, who was familiar with the “lipstick effect,” which refers to the phenomena in which consumers continue to splurge on little luxuries, like lipstick, during times of economic difficulty, desired to apply this line of thinking to the family firm. What kinds of things will customers who are accustomed to coming in without giving it much thought buy? The response requires a degree of adaptability.
“For a period of time,” Gandia explains, “we brought in product lines that weren’t necessarily what we generally sold.” Therefore, we brought what is known as a bridge product or a fashion product. This product was still crafted with jewels, but it was possibly composed of gold vermeil or sterling silver.
Greenwich St. Jewelers expanded their bridal collection because certain things, like individuals getting married, are consistent no matter what the circumstances are. This was also the case in the period of uncertainty that followed the attacks on September 11, 2001.
It should come as no surprise that this truth is still very much applicable in the present day when worries about inflation and the economy have many business owners pondering their next best course of action.
“For founders and people who are going through this scary moment, search within your business for the things that are sort of recession-proof, if that’s feasible,” Gandia recommends. “If that’s not possible, then try to find things that are recession-proof outside of your organization.” Even if it’s not something that’s going to help you grow a lot, but is only going to help you survive lean times, you should focus your attention and effort on it.
In addition, Gandia recommends that you keep the lines of communication between your company and its partners open and fruitful at all times. She encourages people to “take the time to connect with [their spouses] and see if you can predict challenges that you could have” “Discuss the best way for all of you to go through this challenge together in the event that there are difficulties, such as issues with cash flow or inventory levels. What are some ways that we might collaborate to ensure the success of both of our businesses?”
Let’s put our brains together and figure out what needs to take place since we’ve been in this situation before and we know we can prevail.
Greenwich Street Jewelers had both familiar and unfamiliar difficulties in the year 2020 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Gandia Gambale remembers the moment when she realized that she was in a state of fear. Not only did the future of the company’s operations look bleak, but the nature of the health problem presented even more challenges.
“I believe what helped us instantly in our thought process was like, ‘Okay, we’ve been here before, and we can do this again,'” Gandia Gambale says. “I think what helped us immediately in our thought process was like, ‘Okay, we’ve been here before.'” Therefore, let us put our brains together and figure out what needs to take place.
Despite having a website, the vast majority of Greenwich St. Jewelers’ business was conducted in-store; therefore, a swift transition to conducting business online was an absolute necessity.
“We started doing virtual appointments pretty quickly,” Gandia Gambale adds. “We’ve had a lot of success with them.” “It just so happened that we were getting a new website ready to go live around the same time. As a result, we worked hard to speed up the process in order to get that website back online and operational within a month of it being shut down.”
Gandia continues by saying, “I remember one of the first conversations was like, ‘Okay, we need to teach everyone up big time.'” “iPads were being distributed to our personnel, and we made certain that they had everything they required at their homes. We were forced to implement unpaid leave for some employees as well as layoffs.”
Gandia and Gandia Gambale had to translate the in-store experience that earned them rave reviews into an equally impressive one, and fortunately, as they are well-practiced in rising to the unexpected occasion, they were able to do just that. Gandia and Gandia Gambale had to translate the in-store experience that earned them rave reviews into an equally impressive one.
Over the course of several decades, the sisters who are also co-owners of Greenwich Street Jewelers have witnessed quite a bit. As is the case with all business owners and executives, they are well aware of the need to be ready for anything that may come their way in the future. However, you should take it from them that even the most difficult problems that might arise in a corporate setting can be solved with some flexibility and proper planning.
Gandia Gambale adds that the most important piece of guidance that she can provide to other business owners is to be familiar with the financial aspects of their companies. “Understand where your expenses are, what’s fixed, and what’s changeable, and then plan for three different scenarios: the one where you expand, the one where you stay stable, and the one where you’re below.”