Schenectady County

Northeastern Fine Jewelry to expand Guilderland store

Northeastern Fine Jewelry is undertaking some major changes: It’s closing its Vermont store, opening

Northeastern Fine Jewelry is undertaking some major changes: It’s closing its Vermont store, opening a New York City office, expanding its store in Guilderland and getting ready later this year to open a third Capital Region store.

Owner and founder Ray Bleser said Tuesday the moves will allow Northeastern to better meet the needs of his customers both upstate and downstate.

The Manchester Center, Vermont, store is the newest of the three locations, dating to 2004. Bleser said it wasn’t performing as well as the others, perhaps due to a slow winter in the ski-focused region. So he’s closing it this spring and will offer its employees jobs in his other locations.

The store on Western Avenue in Guilderland, opened in 1998, is now in line for a major renovation that will expand its space by more than 1,000 square feet.

The flagship store on upper Union Street, which also serves as the company headquarters, underwent a $1.8 million expansion of its own in 2012.

Northeastern’s new store in Manhattan will be in the Diamond District, but will be in a second-floor space rather than a storefront. It will serve two purposes, Bleser said: Provide convenient shopping for existing Northeastern customers who live close to New York City and provide close proximity to the wholesale diamond exchange for Northeastern’s buyer, thus offering greater selection and better prices, and keeping the company at an earlier stage of the diamond supply chain.

“I’m buying from sightholders — the only way I could get closer is to mine them myself.”

(The few dozen sightholders designated by the De Beers Group, the leading supplier of rough diamonds in the world, are the only companies that can buy from De Beers in bulk.)

Finally, sometime later this year, Northeastern will open a third retail store in the greater Capital Region. The location is undisclosed as yet.

Bleser said Northeastern is in a strong position to expand.

“A lot of the small jewelers are going out of business,” he said, leaving a greater market share available for the independent retailers that remain.

It’s a business that has some insulation from economic trends: No matter what turns the economy takes, people will buy jewelry, especially for landmark life events, he said.

“Business has always been pretty steady for us,” said Bleser, who launched shortly before the deep recession of the early 1980s and endured the even worse recession of the late 2000s.

The Niskayuna resident formed Northeastern Coin Gallery on Upper Union Street in 1980, shortly after following his father into the pharmacy business and deciding it wasn’t right for him. In 1985, he shifted his store from coins to jewelry and rebranded the business to the identity it carries today.

In addition to diamonds large and small, Northeastern offers products from a wide a range of manufacturers and offers in-house work ranging from watchband adjustment to custom creation of multicarat engagement rings.

Northeastern is in the top 0.5 percent of independent jewelers, Bleser said, most of whom make less than $1 million in sales per year. “We’re many, many times that.”

He added: “The renovation and expansion of our Albany store will allow us to provide a greater variety of jewelry in a vibrant setting, while the New York City location will give us the opportunity to expand our business downstate while simultaneously benefiting our Capital Region clientele.”

Reach business editor John Cropley at 395-3104, [email protected] or @cropjohn on Twitter.

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