Capital Region

Outlook 2021: After early pandemic glitches, Frank Adams Jewelers evolves, emerges even stronger

David Adams, Jeffrey Adams Russell, Kimberly Adams Russell
PHOTOGRAPHER:
David Adams, Jeffrey Adams Russell, Kimberly Adams Russell

The customer had been planning for months to give his wife a special gift for her retirement, but it was during lockdown and Frank Adams Jewelers was closed. The custom ring was coming from Italy, deliveries were delayed and the Roberto Coin factory had closed.

So Kimberly Adams Russell made do: From her home, she presented the sample ring from the store to the wife during a video call on the night of the retirement.

“We never thought to do that before,” said the President and COO of Frank Adams Jewelers.

Her son, Jeffrey Adams Russell, is the fourth generation of the family to work at the store. He made deliveries to customers’ homes. “I’d wear gloves and leave a bag on the doorstep,” he said. “They’d open it a few days later,” because there was little information about how the COVID-19 virus could spread.

“We had to sell what we had in inventory,” said Kimberly. “The companies were closed.”

“We learned a lot,” she said.

In all, the store was closed for 12 weeks last spring. “My grandfather worked here for 60 years. In all that time, the store had never closed,” Kimberly said.

Closing up on March 20 “wasn’t fun, it was heart-wrenching,” she added.

Outlook 2021 Index: The Gazette’s annual guide to business in our region

The business had recently celebrated a successful and profitable 2019. Now the doors were locked.

Each week brought more uncertainty. They were worried about keeping their staff. Half had been with Frank Adams for more than 10 years, a few of them more than 20.

“I was home in yoga pants and really working,” harder than ever, said Kimberly.

They were building the new store website, which was underway before the closing, “and I was busy with the PPP,” the Payroll Protection Program, which provided loans to help businesses keep their workforce employed during the coronavirus crisis. “I worked harder at home,” she said.

Jeffrey Adams Russell stepped up, his mother said. He is a Quinnipiac University graduate with a degree in Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management, and has an MBA. He quickly rolled the store phone lines over to his cellphone. He credits his college experience with helping to make good decisions in a scary time.

Community connection

Kimberly was the same age as her son, 23 and fresh out of college, when she came into the family business, also during a time of upheaval.

“It was 1991 and the store had just moved,” from North Pearl Street in Albany to Stuyvesant Plaza. “We were still a small mom-and-pop store and had taken a risk,” she remembered.

Going out into the community, connecting with the Chamber of Commerce and the Women in Business network, exposed them to a new sector and helped create important relationships to grow their customer base.

That’s when Frank Adams Jewelers began to evolve from the small watch-repair business started by Kimberly’s grandfather into a premier retailer of collectable timepieces and couture jewelry. She credits her mother for being a “savvy jewelry buyer” who established relationships with prestigious designers early on, helping position the business as a retailer of high-end jewelry.

Outlook 2021 Index: The Gazette’s annual guide to business in our region

Kimberly did much of the legwork herself, arranging for charitable donations and attending events “almost every weekend.” She used to think the events were “grueling,” but now she misses them. She also misses “putting on a sparkly dress.”

There is a donation form on the jeweler’s website for use by local nonprofit organizations. In most normal years, Frank Adams assists hundreds of groups, often donating auction items that sell themselves — and bring profits — to galas. “What got us here and keeps us going is the connection to the community,” said Kimberly.

Frank Adams values its relationships with customers. During the lockdown, staff reached out to many clients at home to make sure they were OK.

“They are our friends,” Kimberly said.

The store was closed but its jeweler had a small bench at home so they could still offer repairs. People still wanted to buy gifts for Mother’s Day and birthdays. Frank Adams could still sell via Zoom and FaceTime, and did so. They’d learned a lot.

People stuck at home were taking stock of their lives, cleaning out closets and going through boxes. It was a good time to get a watch fixed or a stone reset.

“I did a lot of baking and cooking,” said Kimberly, who admitted to baking sourdough bread during the lockdown. She added, “We had a lot of together time. I enjoyed our meals together. We don’t get to do that often enough.”

Rings, watches

Frank Adams Jewelers reopened in June to a spike in business. The customers missed seeing people, Kimberly surmised. They couldn’t celebrate a special occasion by taking a trip, but they could buy something tangible to commemorate it. “People spent more time here,” she said, noting that some clients lingered, examining stones closely with a microscope. There was leisure time to shop and there was additional time for the business to build its reputation, she added.

When the pandemic upended wedding plans, most couples, roughly 80 percent of them, postponed or canceled ceremonies, the Washington Post reported earlier this month.

“Couples are redirecting their wedding money away from large events,” the paper reported. “In 2019, the average wedding cost nearly $25,000, the bulk of it going to the reception. Now couples are spending more in other areas, such as flowers and jewelry. Those who can afford it can get bigger diamonds.”

Outlook 2021 Index: The Gazette’s annual guide to business in our region

Frank Adams has seen a trend toward slightly larger stones compared with prepandemic sales — and similarly increased price tags.

The ring is one thing the pandemic can’t take away.

Frank Adams is proud to be a nationally recognized and accredited Official Rolex Retailer, something fewer than 1 percent of jewelers can claim, said Kimberly Adams Russell. They are authorized to receive the watches for servicing with a Rolex-trained watchmaker. People who might celebrate an important occasion via travel might instead now choose a timepiece.

Given the weak interest rate environment, those who can do so might choose to purchase an investment-grade timepiece, as they hold their value and often increase in value. Rolex watches are Swiss-pedigreed, handcrafted and individually made, not mass produced. As a brand, they don’t depreciate and like some assets, their products act as a hedge against inflation.

“We sell them because they are timeless gifts, passed from generation to generation,” said Kimberly, noting her father began their relationship with Rolex in the 1970s.

The pandemic forced people to focus on what was important in their lives. During an uncertain, often scary time, “they wanted to find happiness,” Kimberly said.

If it sparkled, all the better. It was all good for Frank Adams Jewelers.

Post-lockdown, “the average sale was higher,” Jeffrey said. And the store had its best fourth quarter ever in 2020.

Frank Adams Jewelers at a glance

ESTABLISHED: 1922, on North Pearl Street in Albany by Frank Adams

WHERE: 21 Stuyvesant Plaza, 1475 Western Aven., Albany, 12203; (518) 435-0075

CONTACT: Kimberly Adams Russell, President and COO: [email protected]; Jeffrey Adams Russell, [email protected]

WEBSITE: www.frankadams.com; email to [email protected]

HOURS: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 12 to 5 p.m. Sunday

LUXURY BRANDS: Rolex, David Yurman, Tudor, Ippolita, Kwait, Roberto Coin and more

Outlook 2021 Index: The Gazette’s annual guide to business in our region

Categories: Business, News, Outlook 2021, Schenectady County

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