Big changes at jeweler CD Peacock

Perhaps a handful of jewelry stores nationwide are up to 20,000 square feet, but none have their own restaurant, Holtzman says. He came up with the idea for high-end retailers in places he visited in Moscow, Hong Kong and Dubai in his former career as a wholesaler selling Swiss watches priced at $500,000 and above.

Aaron Long, manager of Burdeen’s Jewelry on North Michigan Avenue, points out that “running a restaurant is very different from running a jewelry store. Unless they get it right, the food could end up taking the focus away from their jewelry sales.

The company was founded by English immigrant Elijah Peacock as the House of Peacock in Chicago in 1837 – the same year the city was incorporated – and it only survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 because its merchandise was stored in a fireproof safe. (Mary Todd Lincoln was a customer.)

The Peacock family ran the business before selling it to the Minneapolis-based Dayton-Hudson department store chain in 1969. Canadian jewelry conglomerate Birks Group later owned it before it went under, along with many other houses. of elite jewelry in the United States, in bankruptcy. recession of 1990. Seymour Holtzman, owner of SA Peck on Jewelers Row in Chicago, stepped in and bought Peacock in 1991.

Steven Holtzman had worked for his father for a time as a vice president in the 1980s at another company selling $30 Gruen watches. But he had a wanderlust and went to live in Southern California and later Switzerland to work as an importer and eventually as a brand owner. His Swiss-made Maîtres du Temps line featured watches that were priced as high as $600,000 a piece before he sold it a few years ago.

“I decided not to get involved with Peacock after my dad bought the company. I wanted to have my dad as my dad and not my boss, so I left to do my own thing,” says Holtzman, who has lived most recently in Bern, Switzerland, with his wife, Qi, a former principal dancer with the Beijing Ballet—before returning to live in suburban Chicago last year with their young daughter.

“But my dad is well over 80, and he called and said he needed help. It was time to come back here,” Holtzman said. “Everybody’s softer now and we’re on a different level of maturity.”

Peacock has grown in recent years amid a robust economy, but a jewelry house needs on-site family management every day, Holtzman believes. Living in Florida, Seymour had left the company to be run by managers. Steven, who holds the title of Vice President, will now be joined in the company by Qi, another daughter and son-in-law all taking on active roles.

Today, CD Peacock, which also has stores in the Woodfield and Old Orchard malls, employs 65 people and has annual sales of more than $50 million, but it’s still smaller than its heyday. company in the 1980s, when it had more than half a dozen stores. .

After the new flagship opens, by the end of this year, Holtzman plans to update the Old Orchard branch and then begin looking for expansion opportunities. The downtown Chicago store was closed years ago, but Holtzman isn’t ruling out the possibility of a possible move to a high-profile location in the city, possibly on Michigan Avenue.

“We are already in discussions about taking new locations,” Holtzman said. Although retail is somewhat new to him – his previous experience has been almost entirely in the jewelry wholesale side – he bets his background will be an asset.

“As a Swiss wholesaler, I used the best retailers around the world,” he says. “There’s a benefit to learning retail from the outside, borrowing the best ideas from many other stores.”

Do you have an idea for Private Intelligence? Contact H. Lee Murphy.

Jack L. Goldstein