Behind the Scenes Catrine and Christina Medawar
Co-owners, Medawar Jewelers
Medawar Jewelers has been a mid-Michigan gem for over 40 years.
The family’s introduction to the jewelry business began in 1920 thanks to renowned watchmaker and master craftsman Chakib Medawar. Continuing the legacy, watchmaker and master jeweler Pierre Medawar opened the first Lansing-area store in 1978. Alongside Catrine Medawar, Medawar Jewelers grew to five locations across Michigan. Pierre and Catrine’s two children, Christina and Jon-Pierre, are now taking the reins, bringing their own talents in design and marketing to the multi-generational family business. Catrine and Christina shared their thoughts on working together in a family business and what is on the horizon for Medawar Jewelers in 2020.
You and your brother Jon-Pierre are the third generation of the Medawar Jewelers family. What are your roles in the business?
Christina Medawar: About four years ago, my brother and I officially took over our family business. We have done a lot more with social media and social advertising. In our business, a lot has been changing over the past few years. Jon-Pierre and I are really excited to be part of this new industry of jewelry and having our parents backing us up. We definitely still need them. They are so wise and know so much about the business and jewelry itself. In our industry, I feel like we’re going back to the ’70s, with custom design work and not the mass production of the ’90s. My dad started off doing what we are trying to do right now with custom design, so it’s been really cool to see things come full circle. As far as our roles, Jon-Pierre is the creative director. Our goal is to create 99% of the things that are in the store — we’re about 70% there right now. Every piece of inventory goes through him, and he does a lot of the repair work, as well. We have master jewelers in every location, but Jon-Pierre oversees that part. I focus on customer service, social media work, HR and charity events.
What is the best part of working with family?
Christina Medawar: Working with family is the best. We have a trust that you don’t have with anyone else, and that trust is really important. My brother and I have always been very close, so being able to have him as a partner is wonderful. We can get on each other’s nerves, but the nice part about it is we sort of mull it over and a day later it’s fine. In our family business, having our parents be there for answering questions and as a guidance is very helpful. I also love all of our employees, and they’ve truly become like family.
Catrine Medawar: The best part of working with family is the fact that you are working with people you trust and people you already have an established relationship with. You love them, you care about them and they’re in your closest circle. You know that they understand you more than the average person. Sometimes working with family – they know what you’re thinking and feeling, as opposed to people you don’t know as well. Overall, working with family has been one of our strengths. For Pierre and me, working with our kids has been the best thing ever. One, we get to see them and communicate with them. I love calling Christina or having her call me 15 times a day. It’s amazing.
Are you hoping that your son might become the next generation of family working in the business?
Christina Medawar: I’m going to treat it the way our parents treated it for us. They let us pursue whatever we wanted. At 13, I wanted to move to California and live on the beach in a trailer park and make jewelry out of seashells. My brother wanted to become a famous singer and guitarist, and he was in a band as a teenager. We ended up choosing to be in the family business, and I think that’s what I want to do with my son. I want him to become whatever it is what he wants to be. If he chooses to be in the business, then that’s great.
What do you see are the parallels between the generational, heirloom nature of jewelry itself and your family’s history of working in the jewelry business?
Christina Medawar: My parents have clients who they sold their engagement ring to, and their kids and grandkids will come back and talk to me or J.P. They will tell us about how our dad sold them a ring 30 years ago and they want to see if we can help them repurpose the diamonds. I think it’s awesome that I get to hear these kinds of stories.
Catrine Medawar: The best part of the job is when clients come in and say that they’ve worked with your family and loved what they did. I had a few customers come in the other day, a gentleman and four of his kids who are now adults. He said that they had a tradition of coming to our store every Christmas to buy his wife a present and the kids would help. There were a couple of years they stopped the tradition because of life and moving away, but they were back in the area and wanted to renew that tradition. It brought tears to my eyes. I remembered the kids, although I didn’t recognize them because now, they’re adults as old as my kids. It was beautiful to wait on them, and there was that sense of, “I know you. I know what you’ve done for me. I feel comfortable here.”
What advice would you give to others about how to successfully work with family?
Christina Medawar: Having patience is definitely one of them. It’s also important to be able to look at a sibling or a parent in one aspect of your life, and respect them in a different way in business. I respect my brother as my business partner; he’s not just my little brother. Having those different lenses in which to see your family is key.
Catrine Medawar: Some of the challenges are that while you love your family, sometimes things are a little tense at work and it can carry on to the family relationship. It’s difficult sometimes to be the boss and employing family members, because the lines are not always so clear.
Looking toward the future, what are you hoping to accomplish with Medawar Jewelers?
Christina Medawar: On the horizon, there will be a lot more custom work, including house-made lines from Jon-Pierre and my dad. They will actually be in the jeweler’s bench working on the pieces that we as a family have created. You’ll see a lot of that in the coming years. We have a lot of great ideas for our five locations we’re excited to be working on in 2020.