Owning a 100-year-old company isn’t something many have the chance to be part of. Looking forward from the summit of a new era, Colin Nash can certainly be proud of the past that helped build the business he leads today.
When it comes to jewellery, there’s one line that rings true: “It’s not about today. It’s about the next 60 years.”
Colin Nash of Nash Jewellers in London, Ontario knows this line well. Colin’s father and 3rd generation owner, John C. Nash, has said these words countless times throughout his years working and building Nash Jewellers, as his father and grandfather did before him. Mr. Nash learned and thus instilled in his staff that it’s the relationships that count in the jewellery business; you want your customers to come back to you no matter what occasion they are buying for, for years to come. It’s a lesson that Colin Nash still teaches as he continues building the history of this prestigious company.
Colin is the 4th generation in his family to own and operate Nash Jewellers; his current reality is literally the result of his family’s history. Opened in 1918 by his great grandfather John A. Nash, the Nash Jewellers of today has seen and survived almost 100 years of highs and lows. But as proud as he is of the business now, Colin – the third of six brothers – was strongly encouraged not to get into the jewellery business. “My father was very smart. He always told us ‘Don’t come into the family business. And if you do want to come in, go and do something else first,’” says Colin. “He said, ‘It’s retail. This really isn’t what you want to do.’”
Colin couldn’t stay away, although he did give another life a solid effort. “I had all the paperwork done to go to fireman’s college. I was 22, working as a bartender, a ski bum out in Whistler and I wanted to be a fireman. But at the same time, I was designing all these really fun things for the store. So, I got torn between the two but finally decided on the family business.” In 2000, Colin began working at the now-closed Nash’s North London location and immediately knew he had made the right decision. But it wasn’t necessarily about what made him happy but about the fact that he was helping to make others happy. “You’re working with people on some of the most romantic, most emotional purchases of their lives. So, you’re bringing happiness to people. It’s a very fun business to be in.”
Building and Evolving
Being the 4th generation owner of an almost 100-year-old business certainly doesn’t mean Colin Nash can passively sit back and watch as things continue to flourish; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Being in business for almost a century means you must know when to make changes to better the future of the company. When discussing the company’s history, Colin speaks with pride about the business having come through The Great Depression of the 1930s, World War II as well as the financial meltdown of 2008. Looking back, however, has helped Colin to look ahead.
There have recently been some major changes that, while a smart business move, have had a huge impact on the history of the company. “We’ve just built this beautiful new store at Oxford and Wonderland – and now I need to catch my breath,” says Colin. “This was a huge risk. It took guts, and the ability to look forward as opposed to hanging on to the past.” For this merger to happen, both the 16-year-old North London location and the 98-year-old downtown location were closed, and everyone is now under one roof in the new, 5300-square-foot facility. Coming to the decision to close, merge and build was not easy, and was discussed at length between Colin and his father. “This has been a two-year, very stressful project … This was a hot topic for a long time between my dad and I: should we merge, when, and how do you even think about closing the downtown location? I would have loved to hang on to make it to 100 years at the downtown store. But for us to have sold to Mike Manuel, it was a perfect storm.”
Manuel, owner of the London Music Hall, purchased Nash’s downtown location in 2015, as it sits directly beside his business. Manuel promised to maintain the integrity and history of the space while bringing it into the new millennium – a promise he has kept. “I didn’t want it sitting vacant; I didn’t want it demolished. I wanted our history to be intact. Mike has kept everything as-is but built aroundit. He kept the old vault, the display cases, even our staircase. They built a private studio on the main floor where our Rolex room was; on the other side, there’s the Jack Richardson Hall of Fame. So, it’s a great example of how London is evolving, not that we’ve lost another downtown store.”
Colin works with his father and younger brother, Bryan, every day. But you don’t have to be related by blood to feel like family in this business. “We keep our staff for so long, and there’s a reason for that – we treat each other like family. I learned that from my father, and his father’s generation was the same. They had staff for up to 60 years. I think if you treat your staff properly then they will treat you well in return,” says Colin. Working with his father on a daily basis means everything to Colin. “My father inspires me, for sure,” he says, with an emotional pause. “The way he has run and grown the business, the way he treats his staff. He’s very professional. Everything he does … he’s a mentor. He does it right. He’s very soft-spoken, never yells. He is just so calm. I respect him, very much.”
Respect is one of the aspects of excellent customer service at Nash’s, along with many other attributes that, for Colin, are key to winning a customer’s business. “We don’t try to sell people. We are not a hard sell here,” he says. “What I try to teach the staff is, don’t go preaching to your clients about what they “should” have. Listen to what they need and want, and ask the proper questions.” The group of employees at Nash Jewellers is something that makes Colin very proud. “I have a phenomenal staff. The way we work together, I think a lot of them would lay down on the tracks for me, as I would for them. Their dedication and passion is phenomenal and is seen throughout.”
While their customer base is a more mature demographic, Colin recognizes that the people who are buying jewellery these days are very different from the ones who were buying when the business began. “Instead of someone coming to us for an engagement ring at 22 years old, we’re serving those who are getting married at 30. They’re getting through their education, into their careers – they’re more established.” Colin says that most couples who are getting engaged will come in together to get an idea of what suits them, then one will come back to make the purchase later. For most, the element of surprise seems to have lost its appeal – but not for all. “I still love it when someone comes in on their own. Their face is a bit flushed and their hands are clammy and you can tell they’re in for an engagement ring. I admire that because you don’t see as much of it anymore, that’s for sure.”
Nash Jewellers will celebrate the grand opening of their new location at Oxford and Wonderland in conjunction with their 98th anniversary in mid-November of this year. Looking ahead to their 100th year, Colin isn’t quite sure what they will do to mark such an incredible occasion. “It’s beyond me. It’s bigger than me. I’ve been here 16 years but that pales in comparison! We’ve survived a lot. To be the 4th generation of a family-owned, family run business is so rewarding. I get chills, for sure.” Whether it’s today, 60 years from now or over the next 100 years, there’s much more history to be made for Colin Nash and the Nash Jewellers family.
Written by Jess Campbell
655 Wonderland Road N. London, On