Richard and Sal D’Errico started their careers selling jewelry from their shared bedroom in their parents’ house in the Bronx, until one day their mother said enough was enough and told them they would have to find a place of their own.
They did — across the street, a single-family house, which the family bought and split into two apartments, with a jewelry store in the converted garage for the boys.
That was nearly 40 years ago. Today, their business is well-established, in the alpine chalet-like store and workshop that has become something of a landmark on Central Avenue in the Scarsdale zip code. WAG recently caught up with the brothers to learn more about their adventures in the jewelry trade and how the business is looking today.
After working for a manufacturer in New York City, where they learned their skills, their bedroom boutique and then the garage store, Richard and Sal opened a larger jewelry store in a strip mall in Pelham in 1988. They developed their “while-you-wait” and “while-you- watch” service, which still continues today. Sal says, “people really started to like us. Richard became the master mechanic and master designer, putting the jewelry together, and I was better at finance and with people. That’s really how our ‘marriage’ began.”
But the store was in a strip mall and despite the upscale sign, the good lighting and the attractive window display, the drab location no longer chimed with the sparkling product. Their aim was to move further north and find somewhere where they could build a free-standing store and studio, a site with its own parking lot, where customers could stay as long as they wanted. “The parking was important. I can’t tell you how many customers’ parking tickets I paid,” Sal says with a grin.
They opened their Central Avenue store — with abundant free parking — in 1998, building it from scratch on an empty lot. Thinking about what style of building they wanted, the one thing they knew for certain was that it had to stand out from the rest. “Every building seemed to be brick or stucco and they all looked the same,” Sal says. “We wanted something that would look ‘hand-made,’ just like the jewelry. As it turned out, we ended up with a really big jewelry box and now we make the jewelry inside it.”
Richard likens the actual making of jewelry to building a house, with seven distinct trades going into the process. Just inside D’Errico’s door sits Anton Deblauwe, the designer. “Anton’s job,” Richard says, “is to get what’s in the customer’s mind on to a piece of paper.” Of course, the customer doesn’t always know what’s in his or her mind, but Anton, with his sketches, graphics and models, is there to help.
Once the design is on paper, it goes to the 3D printer, an invaluable addition to the process since the firm bought it around four years ago. Then the design is cast in metal in a process called lost-wax casting. Next, the cast goes to the goldsmith, who files, cleans and details the casting and sends it on to the finishing room, where the piece is pre-polished. It then goes to the setter for the stone to be placed and lastly gets a final polish – all ready if it’s an engagement ring, for the bride’s big day. At the back of the building, meanwhile, is the gem-lab, Sal’s domain, where he introduces new clients to the complex world of diamonds. Usually, when engagement ring customers come in, Sal says, it’s the largest amount of money they’ve ever spent on an item of jewelry. Instead of setting out rings and stones and overwhelming them in the front of the store, Sal likes to step up to them quietly. “I ask if I can steal them for five minutes and I bring them back here — make them feel nice and comfortable out of the showroom — and give them a crash course.”
With no jewelry around, he runs through the four Cs (the essential qualities to look for in a diamond, namely cut, color, clarity and carat — or weight). “I give them a little one-on-one diamond education and explain why one diamond might be prettier, why one might cost more, and it really helps them make a better decision. By the time we get out of this room, after 15 or 20 minutes, we’re all on a first-name basis. We’ve built a rapport.”
Gay couples too, of course, buy wedding jewelry. Sal says that guys tend to go for wedding bands more than for stones, although by no means exclusively. Female couples, he says, often like both — an engagement ring and a wedding band. “Well, we love that,” he says with a smile.
Since D’Errico’s is a full-service jeweler, more than half their customers come in just for service and repairs, and that’s fine, too. “We do simple things like a watch battery, all the way up to ‘fabulous’,” Sal says. And while D’Errico’s specializes in wedding jewelry, it makes all other kinds of jewelry, too. The store runs the gamut, from silver, to colored gemstones to high-end fashion jewelry.
D’Errico’s also does a lot of repurposing. Unfashionable pieces that may have been inherited from a parent or grandparent can be transformed — keeping both the gemstones and the metal — into a lighter piece or pieces that speak more to the customer and the times. “Kids today want to wear jewelry and enjoy it, not keep it in a safe-deposit box,” Sal says.
Such is D’Errico’s reputation that customers come from all over — from Yonkers and the Bronx to the River Towns to northern Westchester. Now those up-county and in Fairfield County have their own D’Errico’s. The brothers opened their smaller Mount Kisco store in 2008.
Back in the gem-lab, Sal further elaborates: “We learned on the bench, behind the scenes — how to make, how to melt, how to make the metal flow and how to set the gemstones. But the customer service — I think that came from our parents. They taught us how to be kind and how to be polite. I always say you have two ears and one mouth, so you should listen more than you talk.”
He also mentions that the business has weathered the pandemic well, as people are still getting married but have been travelling less overseas or on expensive trips. They also haven’t even been going in to New York City and have been shopping locally. The high-end jewelry business in general has proved surprisingly resilient to the internet since, as Sal points out, “it’s very difficult to buy a gemstone on a computer.” He says customers need to appreciate the true look and size and feel of a piece.
It’s hard to argue with that. And with Richard and Sal D’Errico’s sunny dispositions at the fore, and the almost palpably happy vibe you feel on entering their premises, it’s not hard to fathom why new customers keep discovering the stores and old ones keep coming back.
Perhaps Sal sums it up best: “If you’re in a jewelry store, life’s not so bad,” he says.
For more, visit derricojewelry.com