100 years later, Mallove's still earning customers' trust

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A century in business is a milestone, but even more so when 100 years later the name of the owner is still the same as the name over the door.

That’s the case with Mallove’s Jewelers, which is celebrating its centennial anniversary this year.

James “Jim” Mallove is the third generation of his family to run the business.

His grandparents, Morris and Goldie Mallove, immigrants from Russia, opened a small jewelry and giftware shop on Golden Street in downtown New London in 1919 and would move it to three different Bank Street storefronts over the next 11 years before settling on State Street.

The growing Mallove’s moved into its first State Street location in 1930, at 48 State, but would move again in 1942 to 74 State St., where it thrived for 65 years before moving to the suburbs in 2006.

Jim Mallove had taken over operation of the business in 1989, when his father, Harvey, died six weeks after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, succumbing a day before his 62nd birthday. Jim was just 27 and still vividly remembers the responsibility he assumed.

“It took me a long, long time to feel comfortable in this business, to carry on my father’s values and my grandfather’s vision,” he said. “It was well over 10 years before I truly understood my responsibility to our customers.”

Jewelry is an emotional purchase, he said, and at Mallove’s the shopkeeper has a longstanding relationship with many customers, some who are the third and fourth generation of families who were served decades ago by Morris and Harvey Mallove.

Today, like other brick and mortar businesses, jewelry stores face competition from the internet. But Mallove said the personal connections and trust his family has established with customers has helped cement his store’s continuing success.

It wasn’t an easy decision in the fall of 2006 when Mallove moved the store that had operated for 87 years in downtown New London to the Boston Post Road in Waterford. But the new location was a better fit and, since then, Mallove’s has opened another store in Mystic.

Janice Mallove Balkan, Harvey’s sister and Jim’s aunt, said Jim made the right decision when he moved the store and opened a second location more than a dozen years ago.

Balkan, 94 and living in Florida today, worked in the family business on and off from the time she was a young girl, until the age of 81, when she retired. Decades ago, she recalled, her father had Mallove’s stores in five locations — New London, Norwich, Middletown, Danbury and North Hampton, Massachusetts. The Middletown Mallove’s is still open but hasn’t been owned by the family for decades.

Morris Mallove, his daughter said, was a savvy businessman who was good with numbers and understood early on the value of credit, developing a layaway system that helped sustain his store through the Depression.

“His creed of credit to the working man, based on earnings, as well as to the man of means was productive of good results and gained Mr. Mallove a fast-growing list of customers and friends,” said a story published in The Day in 1931. The article described Mallove’s as “the first recognized credit jewelry store in New London.”

During the war years, Balkan said downtown New London was filled with sailors and soldiers, many who patronized her father’s store. And the city was the urban hub for the region, with shoppers coming to New London from rural areas like Colchester to buy whatever they needed, including jewelry.

“New London was a very, very busy place in those days,” said Balkan.

An emotional purchase

As the 100th anniversary of the family business approached, Jim Mallove said he spent a lot of time thinking about the store’s history, its place in the community, and his emotional attachment to the trade and his customers.

“It’s something I’ve never taken for granted; opening the door each day,” he said. He treats every customer individually and his staff, he said, is more like family than employees.

“It’s a very personal business,” said Mallove. “Buying jewelry is emotional and you always have to do the best thing for a customer.”

Asked to explain, Mallove said a shopper might come in asking to buy a diamond bracelet, but when asked a few questions, it’s apparent earrings might be a more affordable and appropriate starting point.

“You have to listen to your customer. You have to know your customer,” he said, “And, when you’ve been doing it for 30 years, that becomes second nature.”

Mallove’s son, Max, who is in college, works part time in the store and plans to attend gemology school in the future. Robin Mallove, Jim’s wife, does all the bookkeeping and marketing for Mallove’s and acknowledges the store’s proud history.

“Upholding our reputation as a respected and trusted jeweler is paramount,” she said.

More women customers

When Mallove moved the store to Waterford, he brought some of the old mahogany display cases from the State Street store, and the Bulova clock that used to sit on top of the oversized neon Mallove’s sign in downtown New London. With the move, he gained additional retail space and ample parking, both of which he lacked in the city.

Today, Jim Mallove carries on the tradition started by his grandfather and shepherded along by his father. There is no single celebration planned for the centennial, but each month in 2019 Mallove’s will give away a piece of jewelry through its Facebook page.

In addition to the diamond rings and wedding bands that have always been a staple of the business, Mallove’s does a lot of redesign work, remounting and resetting family stones for the next generation. And, the stores carry at least a dozen lines of sterling silver and fashion jewelry that can range in price from $25 to $500.

These days more women are shopping for jewelry than men, said Mallove, but regardless of the customer or what they are looking for — a watch, ring, bracelet, necklace, or something else — he believes there is a piece of jewelry for everyone. And when he sells it, he wants to make sure the customer is thoroughly satisfied.

“The store’s reputation is my reputation,” said Mallove, acknowledging that is on his mind with every transaction he makes.

“That’s the legacy I was left with and the legacy I will leave to my children,” he said. “It’s all about trust.”

Bridal jewelry at the  Mallove’s Jewelers Waterford location.
Bridal jewelry at the Mallove’s Jewelers Waterford location.

Business Snapshot

What: Mallove's Jewelers

Where: 262 Boston Post Road, Waterford; (860) 442-4391

4 Holmes St., Mystic; (860) 536-1600

Owner:  James Mallove

More information: www.mallovejewelers.com

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