Diamonds, so they say, are forever. But what about the stores that sell them?
Ridgefield’s Addessi Jewelers is marking its 70th anniversary as a family-owned-and-operated retailer. That’s a far cry from forever, but company owner and president Wayne Addessi is confident that the firm will continue to maintain a strong presence in an ever-shifting shopping landscape.
“We’ve always tried to have personal relationships with our customers,” he said at the store’s 387 Main St. location. “There’s a space in back that’s reserved for one of our oldest customers, who’s nearly 80 now. I know the names of most of our customers’ spouses, children — even their dogs.”
That approach was instilled in him by his father, Enrico, and uncles John and Louis, who opened the first Addessi Jewelers on Danbury’s Division Street in 1948. The sons of Italian immigrant Allesandro Addessi, who settled in Danbury to work at a hat company back when Danbury was crowned “Hat City,” the three essentially introduced custom-made jewelry to the area, Wayne Addessi said.
“They also worked with their customers on payments. I’d go out with my father to collect weekly $10 payments,” he recalled.
Known as “Rick,” Enrico Addessi died in 2012, but not before helping his granddaughter, and Wayne’s daughter, Kate Addessi Melo, learn the trade.
“My father spent a lot of time with her,” Addessi said. “She basically grew up here — she was 14 when she started coming in — and she has her own clientele now.” The 25-year-old Kate is the store’s manager, while her brother Thomas works in sales during summer and college vacation breaks.
At its Ridgefield location since 1966, Addessi Jewelers today has seven employees, including jeweler Jeffrey Peterson, who’s worked there for 17 years.
The firm has also kept up with technological advances in the retail industry. Addessi said that he was an early advocate of e-commerce in the jewelry trade, launching the firm’s first website in the early 1990s.
“A lot of my competitors thought that eBay and the like were going to spell the end of our industry,” he laughed. “But I saw it as an opportunity.” He said ecommerce has become a significant business driver for the company.
A fifth iteration of Addessi’s website is due to launch soon and will include expanded video content to better showcase its wares. Addessi said he emails regular customers nationwide when a piece that he thinks they’d be personally interested in becomes available. “I never call them, it’s too intrusive,” he noted.
While declining to disclose revenue figures, Addessi said the business has shown steady growth for the past several years. And while at one time up to 40 percent of its business was done during the winter holiday season, that is no longer the case.
“It’s now steady throughout the year,” Addessi said. “I think customers are more willing to treat themselves these days. During the last recession we actually did pretty well, and even after 9/11 we had the busiest season we’d ever experienced.”
A good piece of jewelry “is like a work of art,” he said. “Customers view it as a
Addessi said his typical customer spends $50,000 to $70,000 on jewelry over the first 20 years of marriage. Long-term customers — those 80-year-olds with the reserved parking spaces — “spend the most with us during their retirement years.” Occasions such as anniversaries and birthdays remain a big part of the business as well, he said.
Addessi is striving to raise Ridgefield’s profile by spearheading a yet-to-be-named marketing initiative to paint the town as a sort of South Norwalk in the making.
He said the group, which is receiving input from town government in addition to several restaurants and other businesses, has raised nearly $40,000.
Addessi said he hopes in the new year to hire a publicity firm for the marketing initiative “to tell our story. We have a vibrant arts community, great places to eat. … It’s a wonderful town, but a lot of people just don’t know about it. We want
to change that.”