By Whitney Sielaff

As we enter the New Year, it is, as always, a time to reflect. This moving account, of a different kind of store interaction, was sent to National Jeweler by Michael Gross of H.L.Gross & Bro., Garden City, N.Y., and holds a lesson that certainly gave me, at least, a moment of pause.

I have been working in our 100-year-old, 5th-generation family business for the past 40 years and have never had an experience quite like the one that just happened several minutes ago.  

A couple, in their late 50s, walked into the store and asked for me by name. The woman needed a cane for support, and they asked to go into a private room. Usually when this is requested it is never good. Either the customer has lost a piece of jewelry, had something stolen or is forced to sell their jewelry to pay for medical treatments or their mortgage.

Once seated she immediately started to cry, and it took several minutes until she could speak. She went on to tell me that she worked for me 30 years ago in a store we operated in a mall at the time. She then went into her pocketbook and took out a bag containing 20 pieces of jewelry, including 3 engagement rings.

Barely able to speak, she told me she had become a Born Again Christian, and that she had stolen these pieces of jewelry from me while an employee of mine 30 years ago. She said she was very young and poor at the time. She begged me to forgive her, and besides returning the stolen pieces also offered to pay for an additional ring that she had given to a man and no longer had.

I was completely taken aback. I told her that I forgave her, that she has certainly paid the price through the guilt she carried with her over the years. I left her in the room to compose herself before she left the store.  

She asked to see me one more time before leaving to give me a hug.


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