After visiting Sarasota in the late 1960s, Sid and Arlene Melnick knew a location on St. Armands was meant to be.
One could call Michael Melnick old-fashioned.
He would call himself that too, in a way.
“I feel like a dinosaur for the most part, but I’ll go out that way, and that’s OK by me,” he said.
Melnick follows an honest philosophy.
“If you’re going to sell something to a customer, and there’s a story about it, that should be disclosed. If it’s not, then I think that’s sort of a white lie [and] that seems to be prevalent in our world today,” he said.
But his theory seems to be working. After all, his family business is marking its 50th year this month.
Since 1967, Armel Jewelers has called St. Armands Circle home.
His parents, Solomon “Sid” and Arlene Melnick, were on a trip in the 1960s to Sarasota and saw construction being done on a building on St. Armands Circle. Melnick’s father knew that building was for him, so he called his brother Harry, who was his business partner. Together, Sid, Arlene, Harry and Mae Melnick opened the St. Armands location. In 1967, the company officially relocated to the St. Armands store.
The store’s original location was opened in 1937 in Staten Island, N.Y. “Armel” means prince in Old Welsh, but on the store’s website Michael Melnick explained that it came from combining his mother’s first name with Melnick. Melnick, who began working for his parents in 1972, has watched the Circle evolve over the years.
Armel Jewelers expanded into spaces previously used for an ice cream shop and corner store, and Melnick has seen changes in retail stores.
“I think the one big thing about St. Armands is that it’s truly the original lifestyle-type shopping mall, and I think it sets it apart in a big way because we have an ambiance that’s unmatched,” he said.
But what hasn’t evolved, is the store’s way of existence. When Melnick took over, he just restructured the building physically.
“Outside of merchandise mix, that hasn’t really changed a lot, except we’re probably more involved with estate merchandise than ever before,” he said.
Melnick said he also has an eye for contemporary pieces, whereas his father was more old-fashioned and conservative. Melnick focuses on classic designs that don’t go out of style, too.
“I find fashion is not here to stay. It’s time and place, and then as the time passes, the fashion doesn’t work anymore,” he said. “There’s something new to displace it.”
Melnick didn’t plan to follow in his parents’ footsteps. He had a geology degree and was doing shorthand work in that capacity, but then in 1972, he joined the family business.
When he joined, he got his gemological certifications and joined the American Gem Society, whose standards align with his honest policy.
“Educating the consumer is the linchpin of the American Gem Society, and in so doing, when you come in as a customer … you’re involved in making the choice,” Melnick said. “You’re not sold something, and if you come back two or three times, that’s fine. That’s better for you and for us overall.”
Over the years, Melnick has formed relationships with customers, which he says is a rewarding part of the business. The Columbia Restaurant has been on St. Armands longer than Armel Jewelers, so a lot of its regular customers are Melnick’s too.
“Some of the terrific people we’ve met from all different walks of life is amazing,” he said.
As of now, Melnick has no desire to do anything else. He said he’s made great friends and wants to continue offering the best possible service, he said.
He still enjoys all aspects of the business even after all these years.
“I find that I’m stimulated by developments in the industry, by the quality of my customers and the quality of our merchandise,” he said.