Getting Personal with the Personnel – Volume 9

Joden Girl

Baubles, Bling and Insider Information

“If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”  This is just one of the quotes that comes to mind when I describe my boss, the owner and founder of Joden Jewelers.  For more than fifty-two years, he has looked forward to coming to work…  six days a week.  He rarely takes a day off.  He tackles each day armed with little more than a hot cup of coffee and a telephone.  Joe Murawski has slowly but surely transformed his once-fledgling small-town jewelry store into the internationally recognized powerhouse that it is today.  

On March 13, 1970, best friends and partners Joe and Denny combined forces (and their names) to open Joden Jewelers at 230 South Broad Street, downtown Grove City.  The grand opening was promoted with the catchphrase “Make Friday the 13th your lucky day at Joden Jewelers!”  The young duo had purchased the former Royal Jewelers from Charlie and Marion Hall.  This new enterprise wasn’t merely a whim.  Joe was no stranger to the business; he grew up on his father Adam’s knee at the bench.  At just ten years old, Joe was already mastering the arts of soldering and sand-casting.  In fact, it was his father’s unwavering support that gave Joe the courage to to chase his dreams.

Joden Jewelers wasn’t his first risky adventure.  As a star high school athlete in both gymnastics and football, Joe had garnered several scholarship offers from more than one prestigious college.  His sensible side was certain that he should accept one of those offers and study to become a physical education director for the YMCA.  But deep inside another voice was whispering something altogether different.  At the last minute, the daring high school graduate jumped into his car and headed to the west coast where he enrolled in the Gemological Institute of America.  


Equipped with his shiny new degree and a few years’ worth of bench experience, Joe and his business partner Dennis were the newest and perhaps youngest store owners in Grove City.  With gold at $35/ounce and a new car costing about $3500 – these enterprising young men needed to sell A LOT of watch batteries and diamond rings to make a living.  Over the next four or five years, Joden Jewelers sputtered along but had yet to take off.  Joe and Denny were big on dreams but low on funds.  They owed money to multiple suppliers and were slow to pay off that debt.  Something had to give.  Now a husband and father, Joe was hungry for success and sought the advice of one of those suppliers… a man by the name of Aaron Saltzman.  

After a lengthy conversation and a thorough evaluation of the business, Aaron offered two very different options…  either tune it way up or way down.  The store could not survive by simply limping along.  Aaron suggested that Joe and Dennis should either file for bankruptcy or dissolve the partnership.  Joden Jewelers was not able to financially support two households.  Not yet willing to give up on his dream, Joe opted to buy Denny out; he became the sole owner and moved the business to 144 South Broad Street.

Aaron’s continued advice breathed new life into both Joe and his store.  As a mentor, Aaron insisted that Joe call him every day, six days a week for twenty minutes at a time for the next twenty-five years.  Those lessons included a broad range of information; they ranged from “What are the different kinds of sapphires?”  to “How do you promote the company without money?”  It was no longer a simple supplier/buyer relationship.  Aaron had become a mentor, advisor and friend.  Little by little, the store began to chug forward.  

Twelve short years later on May 1, 1986, Joe bought Aaron’s company.  Now, he had both Joden Jewelers (a retail store) and World Resources (a wholesale company).  Next, he hired Aaron as a buyer for both… and still those twenty minute lessons continued.  As the lessons progressed, so did the company.  Together, they made trips to England to buy goods.  They attended jewelry shows both to buy and sell goods.  It was during these times that Joe learned the most important business lesson of all…  the power of the inventory compels one to do more business.  Those words are still the driving force of the company.  Today, we have one of the largest collections of true antique jewelry between Chicago and New York.

Perhaps it was the 20-minute lessons with Aaron that fostered a love of teaching in Joe.  Now, it’s the very thing he most enjoys doing.  By imparting his knowledge and hard-earned business wisdom with other jewelers, his employees (like me) and most importantly, his son Jay… the student did, in fact, become the teacher.  After a short-lived stint in college and several unfulfilling career attempts, in 1996 Jay decided to give the family business a try. Twenty-six years later, Joe and Jay are much more than father and son, they’re an unbeatable team.  

Over the past fifty-two years, Joe has held countless pieces of jewelry in his hands.  Experience and exposure have opened his palette.  In fact, he struggled to pinpoint a single favorite and least favorite piece.  When pressed, Joe cited his collection of the works of Carlo Giuliano as his favorite, with the enamels taking top marks. 

Coming in at a close second are the pieces that Joe designed and Steve Becker created…  those stellar creations that have earned national awards.  

I insisted that he name a least favorite.  After much contemplation, first Joe reluctantly suggested costume jewelry.  And then a bit later, he stated that perhaps it’s the 1970’s gold nugget jewelry that he finds least attractive.  Having worked for and with Joe for all these years, I would argue that he wrinkles his nose at mass-produced, ordinary and unimaginative jewelry.  When he encounters such a piece, inevitably his response is…  “I hate it!”.  

Finally, I questioned Joe about his plans for the future of the company, he began by saying that he will never retire.  As long as he is able, he will come to work.  Beyond that, his greatest wish is that one or both of his grandchildren would join the business…  his legacy would be complete.  In closing, Joe leaned back in his chair and credited all of his success to his wife, Deb…  “without her, none of this would have been possible.”

“You can go to a museum and look, or come to us and touch.”

Written by Carrie Martin

Photos by Dana Jerpe and others

Getting Personal with the Personnel – Volume 5

Joden Girl

Baubles, Bling and Insider Information

What came first…  the skateboard or the loupe?  In Jay’s case, it was definitely the board – although both are still an integral part of his daily grind.  From ollies to kickflips – he’s been skating for more than forty years – a lifelong hobby that never fails to put a smile on his face and a new pair of Vans on his feet.  In much the same fashion, he picked up a loupe over twenty-six years ago and hasn’t put it down since.  

Jay joined his father, Joe, in the family business after a misguided year in college that was followed by a few years of odd jobs and assorted career endeavors.  With a little arm-twisting, Joe convinced Jay to give the jewelry business a try.  He proved to be a quick study – a natural with customers and wholesale clients alike.  Although his year at Edinboro University was less than successful, Jay excelled at the GIA (Gemological Institute of America).  He earned his Graduate Gemologist degree in 1998, and then returned home to put his education to good use.

Now, more than half a lifetime later, Jay credits his father with their mutual success and the exponential growth of what was once just a small town jewelry store.  When I asked him what he considers to be his biggest accomplishment while working with the company, he contemplated the question.  Finally, he attributed the wealth of knowledge and respect that he has gained in the industry by being able to flourish within the environment he was blessed to be presented with.  Early on, Jay was puzzled when colleagues would seek his advice even though they’d been in the industry much longer than he had.  But now he has come to understand that Joden is a very unique business, a true treasure chest that encompasses everything from sterling silver to exceedingly rare antique jewelry.  The knowledge gained from this vast exposure allowed him to learn far more than even he realized.  And again, he confirms that every bit of it was made possible by Joe.  

For those of you that know him, it will come as no surprise that Jay selected this watch as one of his favorite pieces.  This 1969 vintage Rolex Daytona (Model 6263) was gifted to the original owner upon his college graduation.  It was serviced by Rolex in 2015 and hasn’t been worn since.  It’s in house and available now for $56,500.00.  His second favorite piece may be a bit more surprising but is just as rare.  

This stellar example of Art Deco artistry was handcrafted from platinum in the 1920’s.  Featuring a matched pair of parallelogram diamonds that have a combined weight of 3.00 carats, this authentic beauty is extremely unique.  With a color grade of D and a clarity grade of VS, these two diamonds were cut during an adventurous time.  New and unusual shapes were just beginning to emerge.  Juxtaposed with those diamonds are a matched pair of synthetic sapphires that are original to the ring.  It’s truly stunning…  and while you’re welcome to take a look at it, this dazzler is not for sale.

When asked about his least favorite piece, Jay thought for a moment and then referenced a portrait enamel that we had featured just a week ago.  He compared the image to the Wicked Witch of the West.  I can’t argue with his observation!  The craftsmanship is undeniable even if the appeal of the subject is questionable.  Multicolored enamel and rose cut diamonds combine in this portrait – it’s available on our site for just $1,400.00.

Never knowing what each day holds is the very thing that captures and holds Jay’s attention.  It’s random and unexpected.  With an easy smile, Jay greets the customer at the counter.  With his loupe in hand, he’s more than ready to face any adventure that may come.

“You can go to a museum and look, or come to us and touch.”

Written by Carrie Martin

Photos by Dana Jerpe

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