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How To Create a Legacy – Insights from Speaking With the Bradford Family

King’s Jewelry at 609 King Street in Old Town has been owned and operated by the Bradford Family since 1978, but Brad Bradford has been with the business since 1963. (Photo: Lucelle O’Flaherty)

Alexandria, VA – Zebra: Please comment on Alexandria as a business location. How has Alexandria helped you to succeed?

“Old Town Alexandria is a very tight-knit community that has many characteristics of a small town. We always say, “Referrals are our best form of advertising.” Frequently, we get new customers who heard about us through their neighbors, churches, kids’ schools, or talking to someone in a local restaurant. Even when people move out of the area, they still return to us for purchases and repairs because they know they will get great service.”

Zebra: In a nutshell, what is the secret to success in the jewelry business?

“Our reputation in the community is incredibly important to us. People need someone they can trust to guide them through purchase or repair. We focus on building relationships with our customers rather than just a one-time sale. We want them to have such a great experience that they think of us any time a special occasion comes up. These relationships often lead to generations of customers returning for their jewelry needs. It is not uncommon to hear a young couple come in for engagement rings and explain to us that their parents and grandparents purchased their jewelry at King’s!”

Zebra: Does your family business have a motto or a basic philosophy that you follow? Why has it worked for you?

“The most important thing to us is being honest with customers. This was always incredibly important to Brad and he passed that mindset along to all of us. We want customers to be educated first so that they can be confident in their decisions. Most people do not know the ins and outs of jewelry and gemstones and they are relying on us to guide them. If you are dishonest or mislead someone, they will never return and it will damage your reputation. The cornerstones of our business are Beauty, Quality, Integrity and Value. We always try to make sure these are met when purchasing new items, handling repairs, or designing custom jewelry.”

Zebra: Tell us about the leadership that has made this business a legacy.

“Brad first started at King’s Jewelry in 1962. He purchased the business in 1978 and immediately started making changes by upgrading the showroom display cases and refreshing the inventory. After years of working at the store, he was finally able to make the changes he knew needed to be done to make the store a success. Throughout the years, there have been many upgrades including adding a full jewelry workshop in the backroom where our goldsmiths do repairs and custom designs. The most notable was a full remodel in 2010 in which the entire front of the store was gutted and redone. Though retirement was in the foreseeable future at that point, he knew his children would be there for many years to come. He worked at the store for 57 years before retiring.”

Zebra: Who are the key players throughout the years?

“Brad has been able to bring his wife and children into the family business over the years. They all assist customers but also have different specialties to help make the store a success. Tari started in 1983 and handles office work along with daily accounting and payments to suppliers. Cathy started in 1986 and takes care of store financials, advertising, and community relations. Andrew started in 2012 and has since taken on a lot of Brad’s duties including selecting the inventory for the store. Greg started in 2016 and spends most of his time assisting customers but also does social media for the store. Along with the family members, we have a very experienced and knowledgeable staff. Our mindset has always been to take care of our employees so that they stay for many years.”

Zebra:. Can you share both a high point and a low point of your business history?

“The Low Point? COVID was definitely a low point for the store. We had to close for 2 1/2 months and the decrease in occupancy of local office buildings led to less foot traffic in Old Town. We were fortunate enough to be able to retain and pay all our employees their full salary during this time.

“The High Point? A high point for the store was when Brad purchased the building at 609 King Street. Seeing all the changes coming to town, Brad wanted to make sure he could not be forced out by high rents. After the owners refused to sell the building, he made the bold move of offering double the value of the building at the time (about 40 years ago) and was able to purchase the building.”

Zebra: Are there any additional Legacy Insights to share?

“Another point worth mentioning is that nobody at King’s works on commission. We want customers to be able to shop comfortably without the high pressure of a commissioned sales team. This also ensures that someone will get great service whether they are buying an expensive piece of jewelry or they are getting their watch battery changed. We all work together and when the store does well, we all do well!”

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