WHITMAN – It’s an empty storefront at the moment, with only new carpet and paint and a sign posted in the window suggesting what is to come, but by Friday, July 15 second-generation jeweler George Alexander plans to have the town’s new jewelry store – Alexander Jewelers – up and running. That’s less than a month after local institution Menard Jeweler closed after owner David Menard officially retired.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to own a store,” Alexander said on Tuesday, July 5 as he worked to prepare for the opening.
And there will be a familiar face at the store – for a while, at least – as Menard returns the favor Alexander once did for his shop by working there, while he shows his friend the ins and outs of watch repair.
It’s also a nice transition for customers.
“He’s going to make himself present here and help out, show me stuff that I don’t know about watches … it’s a good friendship.”
While Menard was conducting his going-out-of business sale, he also distributed 200 of Alexander’s business cards to customers.
“They were all asking who’s going to take over,” Alexander said of Menard’s customers. Menard also spoke about Alexander’s plan to the Express as his retirement sale was getting underway.
“I want to gain the people’s trust,” Alexander said. “The one thing I want people to know is I’m going to treat them the same that Dave did.”
But, for now, Alexander is playing a version of “Beat the Clock,” as he works to ready the space at 14 South Avenue for his opening goal. That work started about two weeks ago.
“I had to wait for the carpet to go down, get the wood ready [there are no counters or shelves in the space at the moment], I had to order signs, I had to have the alarm put in, the internet put in,” he said, listing the projects either completed or yet to be done.
He also had to wait for Menard to close his store before he could open.
“I would never do that to him,” he said about the idea of opening his store before Menard closed his doors for the last time. “Even Duval’s [owner Craig Duval] wouldn’t have let me open without his approval.”
Menard had offered the lease of his store space to Alexander, but, while the store seemed tempting, he admitted that Menard’s plan to sell the building complicated the prospect.
“Even though the space here is small, it’s all I need to do the work,” he added.
And Alexander was willing to wait out of respect for someone he has known for a long time.
Alexander said he’s been working side-by-side with Menard for nearly 20 years, doing custom jewelry making as a good friend and colleague.
He described his work as more behind the scenes.
“I’m more of a wholesaler,” he said.
He said the space is going to be filled with machines for jewelry production, with a small counter area in front for customer service and retail business. He works in everything from 14 or 18 karat platinum, silver – anything. Alexander designs and custom makes jewelry.
Like Menard, he learned the business as a boy working for his father’s jewelry business.
“I’ve been doing this since I was, probably, 10,” Alexander said, recalling his days going into the Jeweler’s Building in Boston where his father worked. “He brought us [Alexander and his brother] in, taught us the things we needed to know.”
The whole building, filled with jewelers with different specialties, provided an real education in everything from hand-setting to engraving and more.
“I went around to all the jewelers and became friends with them, and learned a little from each person,” he said. “I’m not a master at casting, a master at stone-setting, but I’m very proficient and – custom designing and working with metal, I’m the master at it.”
He sees going into business for himself as an easy transition. It’s always been the area in which he did wholesale work.
“Whatever work comes through the door … it gets handed to me, and the I do it,” he said of that experience. “When Dave closed, I could have continued doing that, but I wanted to be in the retail business. It’s more profitable and I get to deal with the customers directly.”
Speaking of clocks, that’s one item he doesn’t plan on working with, but he will be learning watch repair from the master.
“Dave is a watchmaker,” he said. “I can do watches, as far as batteries and stuff, but he himself said ‘Stay away from clocks,’” Alexander said with a laugh. “It’s just too complicated.”
Alexander stressed that Menard gave his customers the best prices possible compared to chain jewelers in malls, where a portion of their profits have to go to the mall owners – and their stock is lower-quality product, much of it made overseas.
“Handcrafted jewelry is becoming a dying art, and I truly enjoy it,” Alexander said. “Where an era of Menard jewelers has come to an end, I would like to offer my services to the town of Whitman, and surrounding towns and live up to the standard of great service that Menard jewelers offered to the people.”