‘This is the happy business’
Owner keeps tradition alive at new Levy Jewelers location
Over coffee at Panera Bread in downtown Savannah, Lowell Kronowitz was talking about his passion — his store, Levy Jewelers.
“This is the happy business,” the store’s president said.
When people buy his pearls, gold or silver jewelry, fine china, estate jewelry and other treasures, they are often celebrating birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and holidays such as Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.
“They share the occasion with us,” he said. And they leave his store with smiles on their faces.
Kronowitz is the fourth-generation owner of this family business. He is the great grandson of founder Aaron Levy who started the store on Congress Street in 1900.
In 1928, Kronowitz’s great uncle, Jack Levy, moved the business, building the downtown Savannah store at Broughton and Drayton Streets. That store was Levy Jewelers’ home for 75 years. Kronowitz also has two other stores, one in the Oglethorpe Mall, the other in the St. Johns Town Center in Jacksonville.
Now, Kronowitz has made a move a short distance westward to relocate his store at Broughton and Bull Streets in the center of downtown after a complete renovation of the new site.
Kronowitz bought the building at Broughton and Bull after two restaurants, Il Pasticcio and the Bull Street Chop House, closed and left the place vacant.
Construction crews then spent the next six months building his new jewelry store. The space is bigger than his old store — about 5,000 square feet of display space compared to 2,400 square feet. Among other things, it houses boutiques full of designer brands — for instance, an area for David Yurman silver, gold and diamond jewelry and another for Pandora silver and gold jewelry, charms, rings and Murano glass beads.
And the store has “a dedicated Rolex area.” Levy Jewelers has carried Rolex for 50 years and is an authorized Rolex dealer.
Other features include a fireplace, a diamond room where customers can view the gems in private and a beverage center that serves free coffee and sodas.
“It’s a place to sit and relax,” he said. “When people come to the store, I want it to feel like you’re coming home.”
The second floor was most recently a restaurant, and Levy’s is keeping a commercial kitchen so it eventually can be used for events.
The third floor once housed a bar; now it’s devoted to offices, and there’s a rooftop deck.
The basement has a variety of state-of-the-art areas for watch repair, engraving, shipping and other services that had cramped quarters at the old store.
Levy’s is all about customer service, said Kronowitz and his staff.
“I treat everybody like I want them to treat me,” said assistant manager Jackie Reed, who has worked for Levy Jewelers for almost 26 years.
Reed is one of the 60 employees who work at Levy’s. There are sales associates, bookkeepers, accounts payable staff, a credit manager, master jewelers, Rolex-certified watch makers.
“All the folks that make our business tick,” Kronowitz said.
Kronowitz has wanted to make the city of Savannah “tick” as well. He hired local contractors such as J.T. Turner Construction Co. to build his new store.
“I’m very proud that 95 per cent of our subcontractors are local,” he said. “Our goal is to emphasize that buying local will help the economy.”
Kronowitz is a native of Savannah. He was raised here but left for more than a decade.
After 10 years at Savannah Country Day School, he went to boarding school, Gould Academy in Bethel, Maine. Then he went to Hobart College in Geneva, N.Y. where he received a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics. Next he went to the University of Michigan, earning a master’s degree in business administration.
From 1985 to 2003, he was a taxable fixed income securities trader in Boston and New York. He returned to Savannah in 2003 “because we had a young family, and I thought Savannah was a wonderful place to raise a family.”
Kronowitz and his wife Hilary have three children, ages 7, 13 and 14.
In 2003, Kronowitz bought Levy’s from his cousin Aaron Levy and Levy’s wife Dayle. He had never worked in retail before but said he has learned the business from the Levys and his employees whose average tenure with Levy’s is 15 years.
“In the store, I stay out of everybody’s way,” he said. “It’s not my place to micromanage.
“My responsibility from a financial perspective is I take the risk. I set the direction for advertising. I’ve hired the operating officer and sales manager to run the business on the (sales) floor. I make certain that we have the proper financial ability to keep the lights on and the doors open.”
His work style is friendly, approachable. On a visit to the “hard hat” area of the construction site, he greeted the tradesmen. “Hey guys!
How y’all doing?” he called out. “I appreciate that you are here.”
At that stage of the construction, Kronowitz pointed out key areas of the site.
“See this guy on the ladder. All the Rolex will be here,” he said.
For all his enthusiasm, Kronowitz has worried as the economy took a dive.
“Since ’08 how many businesses have gone away?” he said. “That keeps me awake every night. We haven’t made that much money over the years, but people kept their jobs and we kept the doors open.”
Then, quickly, he recovers his optimism as he talks about the new store.
“I don’t expect to move out in my children’s lifetime. Or that of my children’s children,” Kronowitz said.