I’m a transplant from Detroit, Michigan, 3rd generation bench jeweler, and 1st generation jewelry retailer. And my story starts with my grandfather, Arthur Meadows signing a lease at the Michigan Building in 1926 at the ripe, young age of 22. After 57 years of beautiful summers and cold winters, we left Michigan and in 1983, moved to Atlanta to begin a new chapter in our family jewelry business.
At around 13 years old, I started working summers at my dad’s shop doing whatever he didn’t feel like doing – polishing, scrubbing floors, etc. I always bugged my dad to go to work with him. I was so fascinated by everything. But my favorite thing to do was stretch my money. I’d get a penny, roll it through the mill, and make it a foot-long penny! In Detroit, the shop had huge windows, so I also liked to stick my head out and look around the corner at the Ambassador Bridge stretching across the Detroit River.
I started the business with my brother. I’m Doug; he’s David. We put our names together and voila – David Douglas Diamonds and Jewelry was born.
And I love to do it all! Thirty-five years ago, I was told that I wouldn’t be able too. I accepted the challenge and have come to realize that may have been the truth. Well, sort of, I can do it all, but not very well. I have learned to replace myself with amazing people that can do it better than I can. It’s hard to find good talent, but we have a great staff of seven full time, and four part time associates.
Diamonds make up the majority of our business, but we have lots of other focus areas i.e. custom design, repairs, etc. Since I started in this industry, repairs have always been very important. But as I grow, they have become more of a necessity and not so much a focus. There are so many different philosophies on and about repairs. None are right or wrong; just do what makes sense for your store.
Technology also plays a big role in our business. It has helped me be here today. You have to embrace technology and change, take time to learn both, and they will become your best friends.
The two scariest stores for a guy to walk into are: a lingerie store and a jewelry store. So, I want folks to feel comfortable and welcomed. I want them to feel like they’ve just stepped into my living room. And that’s just the beginning.
We do quite a bit of grassroots efforts and community involvement. We are big advocates of our local schools and partners in education. We have a writing contest every year called Dazzling Diamonds for Mom. I lost my mom to cancer 26 years ago, and this is to help commemorate her life. The kids write letters telling me how winning a diamond would honor their moms. This year we had more than 7,300 letters.
In addition, we do the flip coins for several of our local high school football teams. We create a custom diamond pendant for the homecoming queen. We do Diamond Island and the Drawing for Diamonds contest – lots of events and we’re always looking for more ways to get outside of our store.
I’ve been in the jewelry industry for 45 years now and have loved pretty much every moment. One of my favorite stories is about a gentleman who came in with a picture of a stained glass window in the chapel at Notre Dame. He wanted elements of the window incorporated into a ring design. It was challenging, but the result was amazing. The couple flew to Zambia Africa and had a private lunch at the base of Victoria Falls. He proposed there. And to top it all off, they were wed at the chapel at Notre Dame.
I first discovered Stuller back in the 80s through a sales rep named Skip Hargrove. Then in the 90s, Shawn Montgomery took the time to meet with me and share more about Stuller with me. We were invited to Stuller’s first Owner’s Conference (which is now Bridge) and I came out so excited and wanted to be one of Stuller’s many poster children. Every time I visit Stuller in Lafayette, LA, whether for a Bench Jeweler’s Workshop or a Bridge event, I leave knowing more than when I came in. Stuller has become my number 1 vendor.
About a year and a half ago, I had a scary tractor accident and was out of the store for a while. It took me some time to get back into things. During my down time, the staff was amazing and filled in any gaps I had left. So, when I returned, I discovered that I had been replaced! I had to figure out why I was getting up and coming to work in the morning. After a lot of thought and soul searching, I figured out I was the Hero Maker and Visionary of the company. And I can’t wait to see what the future holds!