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The right move for Mallove's

By Ann Baldelli

Publication: The Day

Published December 11. 2011 4:00AM

Jimmy Mallove knew it was the right thing to do when he moved his namesake jewelry store to the suburbs from downtown New London five years ago, but what Mallove didn't know then was just how much his business would improve at the new location.

"I didn't realize how good a business decision it was until after I moved," Mallove told me a few days ago.

Now Mallove's Jewelers is expanding - this time migrating East, to Mystic, where Mallove will open a satellite store at 1 Cottrell St. next spring.

The same time Mallove announced his expansion plans, he also announced that he had sold his former State Street building to Marianne Malerba and her son, Joe. Mallove said there had been other interested buyers in the past, but not the "right" buyers until the Malerbas came along.

"I wanted the right buyer, someone who would invest the time and energy, someone who cares about New London," said Mallove, the 49-year-old third-generation jeweler, who took over the store his grandfather Morris Mallove founded in 1919 when Jimmy's own father, Harvey, the second owner, died in 1989.

Ever since Jimmy Mallove moved the business out of New London in 2006, it seems to me he's been defending or apologizing for what he did.

Mallove made a business decision and it's time he stopped making apologies for it. His family ran a downtown jewelry store for 87 years before moving it about three miles west to the Utopia Centre on the Boston Post Road in Waterford.

He's not only located on a busy thoroughfare now, but he more than tripled his showroom space and has 120 parking spaces right outside his door, as well as neighboring businesses that help to create a synergy.

Leaving New London wasn't personally easy for Mallove, but it was the right decision professionally. Even his aunt and co-worker at the time, Janice Mallove-Balkan, who retired back in 2006, said then that her brother (Jimmy's father, Harvey) never would have left New London.

"I see a great future for (downtown) New London," Jimmy Mallove told me the other day, "but it's not going to be in retail. It's going to be a younger, more artistic crowd. But I absolutely see a great future."

His business is up significantly since leaving the city, and in addition to many of the old regulars, he's attracting new customers from East Lyme, Old Saybrook and Waterford.

Downtown Mystic is different than downtown New London, Mallove said, more of a suburban shopping area than an urban one. He's hoping to attract customers there who have been reluctant to cross the Thames River and drive to Waterford. While he's opening in a tourist-friendly district, Mallove said his focus will be on serving locals.

After his father died 22 years ago, Mallove admits he wasn't ready to fill the role of Mallove's owner. He did the job, but over time, said he has grown more comfortable with the position and responsibility.

He agonized about pulling up stakes in New London, but knew he had to relocate if the store was going to survive and thrive, which it has. That move five years ago, he said, signified, "This is my store now."

The news of the new store in Mystic and sale of the old State Street property in New London has rekindled some of that discussion about Mallove's leaving New London for the suburbs.

Jimmy Mallove acknowledges that for a long time he's been defensive about it, and often wondered why he's had to explain his business decision to anyone.

He doesn't. Clearly he made the right move as two other jewelers are now located or in the process of locating not far from Mallove's Utopia Centre store. And he's been successful enough to be able to open another location in Mystic.

Mallove's own grandfather, Morris Mallove, moved his jewelry shop to several different downtown New London locations between 1919 when he first opened and 1940 when he settled in the State Street store that Jimmy Mallove closed 87 years later.

Not to be schmaltzy, but I bet if Morris Mallove was in Jimmy's position, he'd have moved too.

Ann Baldelli is associate editorial page editor.

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