Rapaport Magazine

Island paradise

With an eye for new talent and a respect for diversity, Marie Helene Morrow creates a dynamic vibe at Reinhold Jewelers in Puerto Rico.

By Joyce Kauf

Fluent in four languages, Marie Helene Morrow also has a talent for translating her artistic sensibility and passion for jewelry into a curated showcase at Reinhold Jewelers in Puerto Rico.

The recipient of many industry awards, Morrow was most recently inducted into National Jeweler’s Retailer Hall of Fame in February. Yet she never planned for a career in jewelry.

Morrow had been working at the United Nations in New York when she moved to Puerto Rico in 1964 to learn Spanish. A chance meeting in 1972 with Henry Reinhold, whom she later married, resulted in his hiring her to replace the manager of his jewelry store, who had left six weeks before Christmas.

Their daughter, company vice president Yael Reinhold, recalls living in the apartment above the store. Her father was content to let her mother “work her magic” in the shop’s evolution, a process that intensified after their divorce. Today, Groupo Reinhold consists of five stores: two Reinhold Jewelers — the flagship in Plaza Las Américas, which includes a Tiffany & Co. shop-in-shop, and another branch in Plaza Del Caribe Mall — along with freestanding David Yurman and Tiffany boutiques and Kiyume, which specializes in lifestyle products for men. Except for the Plaza Del Caribe branch in Ponce, all the stores are in San Juan.

Powerful and personal

Through her own career transformation, Morrow developed an instinctive understanding of her core customer — in her words, “empowered women who shop for themselves and appreciate creativity in design and fine workmanship.”

This customer, adds Yael Reinhold, is empowered “more by her confidence in her style and taste and not necessarily because she may have a high-powered career.”

Personal relationships are at the core of Morrow’s retail philosophy. She describes customers as “friends” rather than people who come in to purchase jewelry. “My relationship with each of our designers allows me to share their work and their stories in a truly authentic manner with our customers,” she says.

Morrow focuses a cultivated eye on identifying emerging designers, which she hopes people view as one of her “greatest contributions” to the industry. “If I had my way, I would have twice the designers we carry and a much larger store.”

Designer balance

Morrow has always considered it a privilege to bring new designers from around the world to Puerto Rico — “well before this was an easy feat” — and they find a home in this dynamic setting.

“The Puerto Rican jewelry scene itself has always been, like everything else on the island, truly artistic and energizing, incorporating the voices of the various cultures,” she says. “It is continuing to evolve to showcase more talent, more voices and more diversity, but at its core, it has been a vibrant one.”

Cultural diversity resonates strongly with Morrow, who has gained recognition for her humanitarian efforts. Born in Haiti to a Haitian mother and an Austrian father, she speaks English, French, Spanish and German. “It has always been important to me — and even more so in our current times — to elevate the voices of designers with diverse backgrounds and stories. The beauty of the world is found through this diversity; we elevate each other’s work, and I have always felt it was my job to ensure this.”

She acknowledges that curating emerging talent alongside more established brands “may be the most difficult area for me as a retailer,” as she tries to “balance better-known designers with smaller ones.” However, she works hard to ensure that “every woman can find a special piece at Reinhold that speaks to her, regardless of price point.”

‘Young at heart’

The stores’ ambience has evolved over the years. “Thinking back to the traditional, formal jewelry store that we had in the ’80s [and comparing it] to the graffiti-filled one we have now is to go back through time,” says Morrow, noting that “when you walk into our store, you are greeted with a bottle of Prosecco and a smile.”

Reinhold adds that the friendly vibe includes the “loudish” music that her mother favors — “not the type that drowns out conversation, but the kind that makes you want to dance.”

Describing herself as “young at heart,” Morrow takes on a more serious tone when addressing the challenges of attracting a younger generation of customers. “Youth in 2021 are no longer content to just use their retail power to purchase items. They are intent on having a relationship with the designers and to have pieces that are personally meaningful to them. There is also a strong emphasis on ethically sourced gemstones, environmentally [protective] practices, and transparency in the entire process. At Reinhold, this transition was a seamless one, as these have always been at the core of our values.” She considers herself “incredibly lucky” to have her family involved in the business, providing “a fresh set of ideas that allows us all to stay young and vibrant.” Her daughter Regan Reinhold is involved in buying and long-range planning. Granddaughters Sabrina Deweerdt, Rosana Guernica — who works in analytics — and graphic artist Francesca Deweerdt attend the Couture show every year.

Looking ahead, Morrow cites “several projects” in the works, including a complete redesign of the company’s website — a move that “ideally will create an immersive experience similar to coming into the store to shop.”

For her, “the biggest challenge — and I feel squarely that we are on our way — is to ensure that Reinhold continues to be the destination for the discerning, inspired woman for generations to come. My greatest joy is watching my daughters and granddaughters share and stretch my vision. I couldn’t be prouder!”

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - June 2021. To subscribe click here.

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