By Sam Prickett
Levy’s at Gus Mayer, which opened at the Summit earlier this month, aims to bring “fashionable, funky and functional” jewelry to the Over the Mountain community.
But it also marks a first collaboration between two longtime Birmingham-area businesses: Gus Mayer and Levy’s Fine Jewelry, which have operated in the Birmingham area since 1900 and 1922, respectively.
“One of the most amazing things about this is that both of these family businesses are very, very entrenched in Birmingham,” said Jeff Pizitz, whose Pizitz Management Group owns and operates Gus Mayer. “Both of these families have been around for 100 years and are still in business. Both of these are fourth- or fifth-generation businesses, which is really unheard of in today’s time.”
The new business venture is a jewelry counter inside Gus Mayer, which Levy’s manager Jared Nadler said will offer jewelry that “people will have fun wearing, that’s going to be very versatile … nice, fine-quality jewelry that should last them a lifetime, but that will also have the ability to build and go with their current styles.”
When the counter space at Gus Mayer opened up, Pizitz said his family “looked around town for something that would be a great fit, both for a similar quality of product and similar customers.”
“And we thought of Levy’s,” he said.
Nadler said the idea of a collaboration quickly became a “no-brainer.” His first reaction to the proposed collaboration was to visit Gus Mayer as a “secret shopper” — one of the few tasks made easier by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I started grinning underneath my mask,” he said. He saw customers he recognized from the Levy’s downtown location, and he was impressed by the attentiveness of Gus Mayer’s regular staff.
“The type of service that we try to give our clients in our downtown business, they give the same type of service here,” he said.
Let the Specialists Decide
Gus Mayer, which Pizitz characterizes as an “upscale specialty store,” traditionally has leased out both its jewelry and shoe departments.
“Typically, specialists in these areas can do a better job than a large or specialty store like we are,” Pizitz said. “Everything else in this store … is all operated by our buyers and our family. The jewelry is operated by Levy’s and their family and the shoes are also a separate operation. We just want to build on each other, build on the synergies between all of the different businesses. It’s just a great match.”
“We want to work closely with their sales associates,” Nadler said. “We believe in feedback, whether it’s good or bad, and it just seems to be sort of a magical little thing going on.”
Part of that magic might be the history between the two businesses. The families behind them have known each other for years.
“His father played basketball with my uncle as kids!” Nadler said. They also share similar family histories.
“My great-grandfather came over from Russia, Belarus and that area around the same time as (Pizitz’s) grandfather did,” Nadler said. “I was reading the Pizitz family story, which they have in a beautiful bound book. And I was like, wait a minute, this is our story. It was bizarre, just going through the first three chapters. I was like, this is what my grandfather did, what his great-grandfather did!”
Levy’s at Gus Mayer will feature some exclusive, one-of-a-kind items, Nadler said.
“They may be from our curated estate collection and antique collection,” he said. “Also, I’ve got three award-winning jewelry designers … I may put a couple of (their) pieces out there.”
The counter also will give Levy’s the opportunity to keep an eye on fashion trends as they develop.
“If something takes off here, we’ll move it downtown and we’ll try a new line,” he said. “We want to specialize in trying out new, up-and-coming jewelry designers and this is the perfect location for that.”
For more information, visit facebook.com/ LevysAtGusMayer.