When Mike’s mom and dad started Orleans Jewels in 1964 cubic zirconias weren’t even on the market yet. Mike’s dad believed that if he could offer people a beautiful piece of jewelry for a price they could afford, they would respond. Nay sayers told him he couldn’t be successful. They said no one would ever buy a fake diamond. But Mr. DeGrado knew differently.
Their first store was in the French Quarter. Visitors to New Orleans loved it because they could buy a stunning piece of jewelry that appeared to be genuine, with people back home none the wiser. Locals frequented the store too. They appreciated that my father-in-law stood behind his product, and that he went above and beyond to give them jewelry they were proud to wear. Customers returned again and again because they trusted Mr. DeGrado to give them exactly what they wanted, at a fair price. His work ethic, combined with his integrity, made him their trusted neighborhood jeweler. He just happened to sell jewelry made with simulated stones. Mike’s parents worked hard at the jewelry store 7 days a week, and then went home to create and repair jewelry in their kitchen at night!
My husband grew up in this environment. He watched his parents, and their commitment to their customers’ satisfaction. He developed his dad’s work ethic – always willing to go farther to exceed customer expectations. He was a sponge, learning about the stones, the manufacturing process, sales, and most importantly, discovering the necessity of finding out what our customer wants, and then working hard to make their dream a reality.
Eventually our customers became pretty far-flung, from across town to across the globe. When they returned to their hometowns, or moved away from New Orleans, they continued to call us for jewelry. Mr. DeGrado realized he needed a mail order catalog to continue to meet their needs. Of course, the nay sayers were there to tell my father-in-law all the reasons no one would ever buy jewelry from a catalog. Hmm…
By the 1990s, Mike and I were married, with babies, and both involved with the family business. Mike was designing the catalogs, and working on the mail order end of things. He’d always had a keen interest in technology, and began to dream about having something called a website on this thing called the internet. Customers wouldn’t have to wait until a catalog arrived to see our newest designs! They could have access to us instantly! From anywhere! And we could offer specials! He became obsessed with the possibility of it all. Once again, the skeptics were there. Just as years before, they’d said his dad would go broke and be an embarrassment to his family, by selling fake diamonds, now they were sure no one would ever buy anything electronically. Thank goodness DeGrado men don’t listen to skeptics!
Some things have changed for Orleans Jewels. Mikes parents retired a little while back, though they still check in on the business, thankfully. And we no longer have retail stores. Last year we decided to operate solely on the internet, which has been terrific for our family, as well as our business.
But the important things – the things that brought Mike’s parents their earliest success with Orleans Jewels – have remained a constant. I’ve been a part of their family for almost 20 years, and in a culture where businesses are here today, gone tomorrow, I believe the secret to Orleans Jewels’ longevity is this family’s willingness, our continued eagerness, to provide our customers with the exact jewelry they are dreaming of, at a price they feel good about.
Our kids are teenagers now, and just as involved with Orleans Jewels as Mike always was at their age, which gives us both a lot of happiness. Their after school time is often spent helping out with shipping, or inventory, or filing. They are learning the business their Pop Pop started almost 50 years ago. They already understand how important it is to get to know our customers, so that we can create exactly what they are hoping for. And they see their Dad’s work ethic, and his satisfaction with it all. These early lessons in owning a small business should serve them well. My hope is that some day they will choose t to be your trusted neighborhood jeweler…on the internet.
Visit our site and see the difference for yourself. Orleans Jewels