Retiring jeweller to follow his other line

Brian Daniels is closing his well-known George St jewellery store and retiring. Photo: Gerard O...
Brian Daniels is closing his well-known George St jewellery store and retiring. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
Brian and Cheryl Daniels are closing their George St jewellery business, Daniels Showcase Jewellers, after decades in Dunedin. Brian Daniels talks to Sally Rae about his time in the industry.

The Gone Fishing sign will be going up at Daniels Showcase Jewellers.

Owners Brian and Cheryl Daniels intend closing the George St store, in the heart of Dunedin’s central business district.

Closure of the second-generation business will mark the end of an era but, rather than dwell on that, Mr Daniels (67) is focusing on the positives.

After more than four decades in the jewellery and watch-making industries, that included the opportunity to allocate more time to his favourite pastime.

In the back room of the store, photographs of impressive catches that did not get away were a reminder of his love of fishing, whether trout, coastal sea, deep sea or game.

Growing up in Dunedin, Mr Daniels was adamant he was going to follow in his father’s footsteps, despite Bob Daniels attempting to steer him into other career paths, such as a town planner or architect.

He served his apprenticeship with MacKinnon & Rutter Ltd, training under master watchmaker Bill MacKinnon.

From there, he moved into the family business, then known as Peter Dick Ltd, and joined the firm as company watchmaker in 1974.

Originally a joiner, Bob Daniels had sold "everything" — from a house to vehicles — to raise the money to buy that business — which he had been managing — when he was 42. That was something his son had always admired him for.

After completing his apprenticeship, Brian Daniels continued with further education, qualifying as a gemologist and also as a master craftsman watchmaker.

An old photograph of Brian Daniels, with his father Bob. Photo: Supplied
An old photograph of Brian Daniels, with his father Bob. Photo: Supplied
In 1975, he and his wife Cheryl, whom he married the previous year, went to Switzerland, where he furthered his education in the home of watchmaking.

It was a great time to be involved as the industry was transitioning very fast from the mechanical to electronic era. He worked at a watch factory and was then sent to work in its service centre in Munich.

Both he and his father had a strong industry involvement and Bob Daniels served as president of both the national jewellers association and watchmakers association — the only person to  do that.

Both men were also very involved with apprentice schemes. Education was very important, even with staff training, and it was critical that staff had product knowledge, Mr Daniels said.In 1987, Brian and Cheryl purchased the business from his parents on his father’s retirement. At that stage, it was still in Princes St.

In the late 1990s, the business shifted to George St. Before that, it also opened a shop in Albion Pl to capture some of the George St retail market. At that stage, the Daniels could see the emphasis of retail was moving in that direction. The Albion Pl shop was later closed upon the acquisition of the George St premises, as, at times, they were competing with each other, he said.

When it came to business, Mr Daniels believed the niche for the couple was always in being owner-operators.

There were lots of traditions in the store, and those traditions followed through in the designs and quality of jewellery.

"We’ve always kept the quality of jewellery up and been proud of that," he said.

Being part of first Gemtime and then Showcase, meant a "wealth of information" and they had connections throughout the world.

"They support you in bringing the world to your shop."

In latter years, a great thing for the Daniels had been branded diamonds. While attempts had been made to clone diamonds throughout his career, and there had been various imitations and now man-made diamonds coming in, nothing would ever replace the real thing, he believed.

One  customer, memorably, over a period of time, had bought five diamond rings for five women.

"Every year, or couple of years, he’d buy a new one. He had a new lady," Mr Daniels recalled.

But then one day, he turned up and bought a wedding ring — "and we never saw him again".

"I think that would have to be some sort of record," he mused.

The industry had been very good to Mr and Mrs Daniels; they had met lots of great people and made lifelong friends.

Mr Daniels had no regrets about retiring, nor was he emotional about closing "the family store".

What he was a little sad about were the long-term customers. Many were repeat customers and they had become friends. The couple had been there to share some "very happy times" in people’s lives. The big thrill came from meeting a customer and talking about what they wanted, learning about them and then creating a piece of jewellery they were looking for.

Seeing the look on their face when the finished product was presented to them was an exciting time. But Mr Daniels would not miss the compliance issues within the industry nor the employment laws.

The timing was right. It involved a shop lease and he was in good health and wanted to enjoy that.

The couple, who intended staying in Dunedin, were looking forward to "kicking back" and relaxing for the first six months. Mr Daniels also intended to continue to repair clocks as a pastime.

Economically, it was better to close rather than sell, but he remained upbeat about the retail scene, saying there were "still plenty of opportunities".

"People need people. They love that interaction."

It was still easier to ask an expert a question and get an instant answer, than spend several hours searching on the computer.

It was no different from when he wanted to buy a special fishing lure or rod: he wanted to go and talk to someone about it, handle it and get some opinions.

Also, people loved shopping and that was something that would not go away — 93% of all retail was still done "in bricks and mortar" worldwide.

Opportunities were already arising for their three permanent and two part-time staff, he said.

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