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Former pro race car driver rings up success in concierge jewelry
Date Published: Dec 11 2013 by Lacey Nix
The workday ends at a high-end jewelry store on Fifth Avenue in New York City. The store owner shrugs off his $5,000 tailored, gray Armani jacket and loosens his purple tie. He clears the showroom one last time and then searches for music to help him cut loose after the long day. As he parts the blinds on his sixth-floor showroom and looks at the sea of traffic below, he smiles, knowing his Harley cuts through traffic much faster than any car. He changes into his leather riding gear, grabs his helmet and exits the building, speeding off to meet his pit crew before an open-wheel race.
To clients, Greg Jezarian epitomizes wealth; his company name, G. Jezarian Purveyor of Fine Jewelry, and his work as a concierge jeweler, scream exclusivity. Clients tell Jezarian what types of jewels they want and he contacts dozens of suppliers, gathering samples to create a customized showroom for the client. If the customer wants a bigger diamond, Jezarian just makes a call. His attention to detail and willingness to go the extra mile for clients earned Jezarian a 2013 Best Contractor recognition from Angie's List. His highly rated company has garnered 16 Page of Happiness nominations from members since 2011, and in 2012 he received the Super Service Award. Despite the success, Jezarian says he never imagined life as a jeweler. He dreamed of a future as a professional race car driver and obtained some early success in that industry. Today, Jezarian finds ways to combine his passion for racing and jewelry, like his self-designed race car-themed jewelry.
Jezarian has created a reality that 20 years ago seemed impossible, even to himself. He grew up in a minuscule apartment in the Bronx, where he lived with his mother, father and younger brother. His first memories consist of his father telling him: "To live by another man's will is wanted by most, necessary by some and misery to few." Jezarian racecar jeweler Jezarian says his father inspired him to race and follow his dreams. "Live by your own will, Greg," his father, Greg Sr., advised. Greg's father knew all too well what it felt like to take orders from others. The army drafted him just after high school graduation. He served in Vietnam, earning a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for heroic acts during combat. He went to college after Vietnam, but left after deciding it wasn't his scene and wanting to make money faster. Greg Sr. quickly found work at a hospital and worked his way from a lower level job to earning a spot as the Director of Operations.
"He was my superhero," Jezarian says, adding that his dad moved the family out of the Bronx and into a great neighborhood. "He never quit, he never gave up and it taught me everything about work ethic," Jezarain adds. The younger Jezarian struggled in school. "It wasn't for me," he says. At 14, Jezarian's father took Jezarian to volunteer with him at a local racetrack, where they waved flags. Jezarian says the racing lifestyle instantly mesmerized him. "The racers had an air of grace and wealth around them," he says."I was star struck. I wanted to be just like them." Noticing his son's interest, Jezarian's father bought an old race car. Jezarian restored the car with his father, who eventually raced it at local tracks. Jezarian says he nagged his father about racing the car himself. "My father was a slow driver I was relentless in teasing him," he says. One day, 16-year-old Jezarian got into a fight with his father after his dad lost a race. "I told him I could do so much better," he says. "My father handed me the keys and told me to prove it," he says, adding that the experience became a defining moment in his life. His performance on the track that day eventually earned him the opportunity to test for a professional racing team, which he eventually joined. Jezarian says he felt as if all his dreams were coming to fruition, but a series of unexpected events changed his path in life. "Just when I thought I had it all, I lost my sponsor," he says. Without the financial backing, Jezarian didn't possess the capital required to continue in the expensive sport. "I felt like a washed-up nobody," he says.
Faced with the challenge of finding a new career, Jezarian headed to college, where he earned his bachelor's degree in business administration. He says he remembered the wealthy financiers of racing teams and decided to emulate their career choices. Jezarian racecar jeweler Jezarian operates a concierge jewelry store in New York City, where he creates custom showrooms for clients. With a new focus in mind, Jezarian enrolled in the Gemological Institute of America. Once he obtained the necessary knowledge and certifications, he says the hard work started. "Most of my colleagues inherited family-run jewelry stores," he says. "I had to climb my way to the top," he says. He says he first went undercover as a customer at the most prestigious jewelry stores in New York City to see how they treated customers. "What I saw disgusted me," he says. "They profiled people, didn't explain things and rushed clients," he says promised himself to never get so big that customer service suffered.
With help from his father and family friends, Jezarian opened his showroom in 1996. "I was playing the role and wearing expensive suits, but at night I slept at my grandma's and ate cold pizza," he says, adding that it took years to find his place in the industry. His climb to the top turned bittersweet when he learned his father had cancer. "I sold everything I had and bought him a Harley," he says. "I gave him a purpose, something to hang on to." Jezarian's father rode the Harley everywhere, even to his chemotherapy appointments. Several months later, his father passed away. His father's Harley still sits in his garage, and Jezarian says it will always be his favorite bike. Jewelry niche helps him shine To set himself apart from other jewelers, Jezarian established himself as a concierge jeweler. "It's like Netflix for jewelry," he says. He creates a custom showroom for each of his clients, based on their jewelry preferences. When clients meet with him, they have his undivided attention; they're the only ones in the store. Jezarian likes it this way. "My heart goes into everything I sell," he says. "Their grandkids will see this jewelry someday. I'm with them forever, I'm a special part of that story."
Jezarian's quest for the ultimate client experience helped him establish a loyal customer base. It also led to meeting his future wife. In 2006, Jezarian worked with a designer to create custom pieces for a client. When he went to pick up the jewelry, he met Monika, a Polish graduate student working in the country while obtaining her master's degree in mechanical engineering. She instantly caught his eye. Jezarian suddenly became their best customer, just to see her," he says. Jezarian and Monika dated for two years. I'd never met anyone quite like him; he wasn't afraid of anything," she says. He made my transition to American culture so much easier."
Jezarain says he knew she was the one. "She gave up a huge career in Poland for me and the life she'd known, I'm incredibly lucky to have her," he says. One evening, Jezarian drove Monika to the Bridgehampton Raceway in Long Island. It's where he first starting racing and made so many memories with his father. Developers had transformed the site into a luxury golf course, but a steep hill from the track remained. Monika says she felt nervous when they discovered the gate was locked, but Jezarian found a way in. Greg then decided to show me what it was like to go down the hill at top speed," Monika says. As the car descended and Monika screamed, Jezarian pulled out a diamond engagement ring. "We took this plunge, now let's take the next one," he said to Monika. "I couldn't say no. I was too scared," Monika says. Jezarian racecar jeweler Jezarian and his wife, Monika, travel around the world on their motorcycle. Jezarian recalls the pressure and nervousness he felt when designing an engagement ring for Monika. "It was great for me to see the experience from the client's perspective," he says. "I was a nervous wreck."
This experience came in handy when New York City member Adam Korn presented a challenging request. Korn hoped to propose to his girlfriend, Jenny, but she rarely wore jewelry and he didn't know what type of ring sh'd enjoy. Jezarian worked with Korn, asking questions about Jenny and looking at photos of her. "I hoped that Jenny would not only find it beautiful, but that sh'd know I understand her," Korn says. With Korn's help, Jezarian designed a platinum ring with a green emerald lit up by tiny diamond adornments. Jenny loved the ring and said yes to the proposal. She then took out one of her beloved grandmother's family heirlooms: an emerald and diamond encrusted bracelet, which Korn says h'd never seen. "It was an uncanny match to the ring," Korn says, adding that Jezarian not only designed the perfect ring, he also made the experience enjoyable.
Experiences like Korn's do not surprise Jezarian's mentor, Ronnie VanderLinden, a well-respected jeweler in New York City's diamond district. Greg's as comfortable selling six-figure diamond jewelry to celebrities as he is working with the average guy off the street," VanderLinden says of his protege. Jezarian declines to name the celebrities he works with in order to respect their privacy, another quality VanderLinden finds admirable. "I like working with people like Greg, who respect the business and operate ethically," he says. VanderLinden says Jezarian's willingness to help others, no matter the personal cost, always impresses him. Recently, one of Jezarian's colleagues developed a health issue that threatened to end the man's career. While unable to work, Jezarian took over his business, servicing that company's clients as well as his own. "With his own business to run, he didn't have to take on that responsibility, yet he knew it was the right thing to do," VanderLinden says. The sacrifice paid off, as today Jezarian is a part owner of his colleagu's New York City jewelry business, the Kramer Brothers. Success still humbles Jezarian, who says his work ethic originates from his upbringing. I know what it's like to have nothing," he says. Jezarian says his only regret is that his father didn't get to witness all of his success. "It kills me that h's not here and I can't share this with him," he says. "I know h'd be proud." Two passions merge ahead Jezarian continues to race competitively on the weekends with his wife by his side. He says it's the place where he feels closest to his father. The track also presents opportunities for the driver to market his business. Jezarian racecar jeweler Jezarian designed a race car-themed line of jewelry, including cuff links, bracelets and rings. (Photo by Greg Jezarian) To merge his passion for racing and jewelry, Jezarian created a custom line of race-car-inspired jewelry. "I became to racing what Harry Winston is to the red carpet," he says, again declining to name the Indy 500 winners who wear his jewelry. Despite the busy work schedule and weekend races, Monika says they do manage to spend quality time together. Last year, Monika and Greg embarked on a trip around the world on their motorcycle. They started in New York City and rode to Canada; from there, they flew to England and rode through Europe. The Jezarians left the bike in Poland and will pick up the next leg of their trip in Summer 2014, when they plan to bike from Poland to Russia. "I want to experience life and have no regrets," he says.