Rapaport Magazine

Two Sisters

Jennifer Gandia and Christina Gandia Gambale reinvented bridal at Greenwich Jewelers in New York City and boosted business.

By Joyce Kauf

Single Stone
When you walk into Greenwich Jewelers in New York City’s financial district, you immediately sense that you will discover something new. “We strive to be singular in the market,” explains Jennifer Gandia, co-owner along with her sister, Christina Gandia Gambale. Offering limited-edition jewelry and designer exclusives has made the store a destination point, especially for bridal — the category they credit with having revitalized the family-owned business they joined in 2002. 
   “We really want you to experience each designer as its own gallery,“ says Jennifer, pointing to the gemstone designs from Jemma Wynne and Arik Kastan, among those designers exclusive to Greenwich Jewelers in the New York City market. And the open cases for fashion jewelry make it easy to touch and try pieces on. “Part of the experience is making the jewelry approachable,” says Jennifer.
   Number one on Jennifer’s barometer for selecting a designer is her visceral reaction to the jewelry. “Is this exciting? Is it something I haven’t seen before?” Then she considers the materials, selecting recycled and ethically sourced products. A critical consideration is the ability to customize the piece. Sometimes the sisters disagree. “I’ll go to Christina and tell her ‘this is amazing’ and then she’ll ask if it will sell,” says Jennifer, explaining they are the “yin and yang of the business.”
   Their decision to join the family business, made independently of each other, “came out of left field for our parents,” according to Jennifer. The sisters were not groomed to take over the store, founded by their parents, Milly and Carl Gandia, in 1976. While they occasionally worked there over the holidays, each sister pursued an independent career, Jennifer in fashion and beauty marketing and Christina in finance. “But I’m an entrepreneur in my gut. Seeing the bigger picture, planning and building just felt very natural to me,” Christina explains.

Turning Point
   September 11 was the turning point for Jennifer. The family’s original store was located on Greenwich Street in the shadow of the World Trade Center. In its new location a few blocks away, they faced the challenge of rebuilding. “One of the most conscious decisions was to really get into bridal. It may have been the action that saved us,” Jennifer recounts, noting that at that time the bridal category accounted for the lowest revenue of all their jewelry. “Little by little, we decided that we were really going to make this a new category for us.” Starting with Artcarved, they gradually built a collection that now includes 15 different vendors, each, Jennifer points out, with an “out-of-the-norm” style.
   In developing their bridal line, the sisters forged alliances with diamond designers. “We looked for classic and artistic with a modern sensibility,” says Christina. They launched Megan Thorne bridal in New York and became the exclusive retailer in the New York City market for Todd Reed, Sylvie Bridal Collection and Single Stone, the Los Angeles–based company whose handmade designs with vintage center stones illustrate Jennifer’s keen eye for selecting unique pieces for her customers. “Even the melee is old European cut,” she points out. In 2010, they launched the Greenwich Collection, a curated collection of jewelry and bridal pieces sourced from all over the world.

Embracing Change
   Over the years, the sisters have maintained their criteria for innovative and quality design, adapting it to the new customer reality. “Today the greatest change in attitude has been that people want an engagement ring that represents who they are, what their lifestyle is and their story. For some people, that translates into a different perception of what their forever ring could look like,” Jennifer explains.
   Jennifer sees a growing trend toward colored stones in engagement rings, especially over the past two to three years, noting also that organic, opaque and rough diamonds are gaining in popularity. And Greenwich Jewelers’ ability to customize the ring — change the stone, the cut or the metal — allows them to meet their customers’ specifications and demonstrates their “100 percent client focus.”

Staying Social
   Social media and the store’s website are integral to their marketing strategy. There are “jewel du jour” website promotions, special Facebook offers and a blog to encourage interaction. “Social media was the perfect storm,” says Jennifer, citing the “great reviews that absolutely made us a destination point.” While the sisters do not sell bridal online, their website has been very valuable in creating informed customers. “It raises the level at which you can speak to them. They can decide they want to work with you based on something other than the price of a 1-carat diamond,” says Jennifer.
   Looking to the future, Jennifer thinks the industry needs to become “more interactive, more open, more inclusive and more exciting.” She envisions experiential, lifestyle stores encompassing a broader category of accessories. “There needs to be recognition that we’re all one,” Christina believes. “We need more communication between jewelry and accessories.”
   Tastes may change, but Jennifer and Christina never lose sight of jewelry’s timeless allure. “There is a lot of sentiment about the wedding band that is bandied about in the industry. But there is something very real about the magic of a piece of jewelry,” concludes Jennifer.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - April 2013. To subscribe click here.

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