Retailer Hall of Fame profile: Tony Schiffman
Greensboro, N.C.--When Arnold Anthony Schiffman Jr. got into the jewelry business more than five decades ago, his family-owned firm--already then 66 years old--had exactly one jewelry store, on South Elm Street in Greensboro.
Today, Schiffman’s owns a total of 11 stores spanning eight markets in five states: three Schiffman’s in North Carolina, Sylvan’s Jewelers in Columbia, S.C., Keller & George in Charlottesville, Va., three Shreve & Co. stores--two in the San Francisco area and one in Portland, Ore.--and three Schwarzschild Jewelers stores in the Richmond, Va., area.
Schiffman Jr., who is better known as Tony in order to keep all the Arnolds in the family straight, has a simple formula that has allowed the now 119-year-old family business to thrive.
“You work hard,” he said. “You come to work every day and you meet the public and do what’s necessary to make your store a success.”
One of his three sons, Arnold A. Schiffman III, tells a story that illustrates exactly how passionate his father is about getting to know people in the community and developing relationships with them.
He says when the two would play a round of golf, his dad could point to each house lining the course and say who lived there and what they did for a living. “They were all clients or he wanted them to be clients,” Schiffman III said.
He says his dad likes his customers and, what’s more, he knows them. He knows when they have a birthday or anniversary coming up, and he genuinely enjoys being part of the celebration as their jeweler. “That’s what he’s done for all these years, and that’s the work ethic he tried to instill in us,” he said.
Schiffman Jr. also feels passionately about giving back, calling community service “a very important addition to the program” for any jeweler.
He said the store does not support one cause exclusively but, rather, assesses the need within each community and gives where necessary.
Now 75 years old, Schiffman Jr., the self-described, “oldest rat in the barn,” still comes to work every day, even though he has sold the business to his three sons, Arnold, Vance and Lane.
These three brothers mark the fourth generation of Schiffmans in the jewelry industry. This summer, Arnold Anthony Schiffman IV, Schiffman III’s son, will spend his summer off from college working at one of the family’s stores.
While the family has eight children under the age of 23 who could potentially represent the fifth generation, Schiffman III says they have a set of ground rules for family members looking to get into the business. And it’s not yet known who among them might be willing to follow in their forefathers’ footsteps.
“It remains to be seen,” Schiffman III says.