Richard Breslauer is president of Breslauer & Warren Jewellers.
What’s the history of the company and where you are located today?
Breslauer: One hundred years ago my grandfather, Hugo Breslauer, met his future partner James Warren while working in the jewelry business in San Francisco. The two decided to start their own jewelry store and found an opportunity in Winnipeg. In 1919, Winnipeg was the third largest city in Canada so they moved there and started Breslauer & Warren Jewellers on Portage Avenue.
In 1956, my father Cecil Breslauer, along with his father Hugo Breslauer, purchased the entire business. I joined the company full time in 1978 upon graduation from university, having worked part time for years as a kid while in school.
In 1979, we expanded to Calgary and opened our first Calgary location in Gulf Canada Square. We then added a store in Chinook Centre in 1982 and closed the Gulf Canada store in 1984. In 1990, we closed our store in Winnipeg as Calgary was a much more vibrant city. Our Chinook Centre store was located in centre court until 2005, when another jeweller bought our location. At that point, I decided to move our store back downtown.
Breslauer & Warren went back to our roots and we were located in the historical Lougheed Building on 6th Avenue S.W. until April 2018. Being just one of the last two tenants in the building, we closed the location.
This is my 40th year in the business and, as I wasn’t ready to retire, I decided to relocate and build a brand new store in Bow Valley Square 1 right on 6th Avenue S.W. just a few steps from our last location. So, after almost 100 years we have now opened a new 21st century concept jewelry store.
What do you specialize in?
Breslauer: Breslauer & Warren specializes in unique and custom-made diamond engagement rings, wedding bands, diamond earrings, diamond pendants and diamond bracelets. We also carry a large collection of gemstone diamond jewellery and Italian gold and silver jewelry. As well, we specialize in creating rings, pendants and earrings with our computer design technology.
How do you differentiate yourself from others in the industry?
Breslauer: Unlike most of the traditional jewellers, we stopped selling watches and giftware in 2008. I made the decision to change our business model and to solely concentrate on carrying fine jewelry. By doing so, we were able to compete with the majority of the online jewelry websites that were gaining popularity.
Also, we are the only jewelry store in Calgary operated by the same family for over 99 years. As I am the third generation Breslauer running the business, it’s very important to carry on the legacy of my family’s life’s work and reputation in the jewelry industry. We strive to make sure you have an unforgettable personalized experience when you walk into my store.
What trends are you seeing these days in your industry?
Breslauer: There are two major trends I see occurring in the jewelry business. The first is that people tend to dress casual and dress formal less often. Therefore, the large diamond cocktail rings, necklaces and drop earrings, seen at events such as the Academy Awards, are seldom purchased. Our clients tend to choose more classic contemporary styles of jewelry that can be worn every day and for formal occasions.
The second major trend is that women see pictures of engagement rings on websites such as Pinterest and their significant others come into our store requesting that we custom make a similar ring. This is a vast difference from past buying trends. Until about four years ago, the customer would come into our store and choose an engagement ring style from the hundreds of rings we have in stock. We now custom design more than 70 per cent of our engagement rings through our design studio to accommodate our customers’ requests.
How has the challenging economy of the last three years impacted your business?
Breslauer: When we were in the Lougheed Building (Grand Theatre), we had the construction of Brookfield Place beside us hindering traffic as is currently happening on 17th Avenue. Then the exodus of approximately 40 per cent of the downtown workforce has definitely impacted our business.
So in reaction to these challenges we’ve been encouraging customers to come downtown by offering many lower price point unique items and more custom jewelry options. As we have much lower overhead than jewellers in shopping malls, we can pass the savings on to our customers.
Furthermore, we realize that in these challenging economic conditions people have less disposable income to spend on luxury items.
Also, we have expanded our digital footprint to reach out to a much broader audience extolling the virtues of coming downtown and supporting our local community business.
– Mario Toneguzzi