Torquay businessman David Rowe celebrating half a century as independent jeweller
- Credit: Submitted
This summer David Rowe celebrates 50 years of working as an independent jeweller in Torquay.
His jewellery journey began as the son of Gordon and Kathleen Rowe who first opened Gordon Rowe Jewellers in Torre before moving down to Union Street in the early 1950s.
David’s initial plans to take on an apprenticeship at a well-known department store were side-lined in the summer of 1971 when his father was taken seriously ill.
As a part-time working mother, Kathleen was unable to run the business alone, so David was called into action to help out. He never looked back.
David was immediately fascinated by the trade and took pleasure in completing a Goldsmithing course at Plymouth College.
He reflects how archaic and labour intensive the running of a shop was at that time with everything being recorded by hand right down to the tiny tickets adorning each item of jewellery.
At a similar time to joining the business, David also met his wife to be, Regina, who was a visiting language student from Germany.
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They married in 1976 and Regina was swiftly brought into help with the bookkeeping side of the business.
They saw the potential that lay in Gordon Rowe Jewellers and in the early 1980s they bought out David’s parents, expanded the interior of the shop and set about lifting the quality of stock sold.
David recalls what a challenging time this was for him and Regina.
They had started a family with two young daughters and just taken on large levels of debt at a time when interest rates hit double digits.
However, they believed in their vision for a high-quality business offering beautiful jewellery with exceptional and knowledgeable service – a vision which continues to the present day.
This vision has always been firmly cemented in their fantastically loyal and dedicated staff, both past and present, without whom they would never have been able to succeed.
In the late 1990s, David and Regina had the opportunity to purchase their long-standing rivals Conroy Couch Jewellers which is situated directly across the road from the Gordon Rowe shop.
They snapped this up and were immediately catapulted into the fascinating market of second-hand jewellery, in which Conroy Couch was, and still is, a specialist.
The two shops continued operating successfully alongside one another catering to different markets.
Roll forward another decade and along came another opportunity.
This time in the form of Pandora.
David and Regina first starting selling Pandora from Gordon Rowe with just a couple of trays of silver charms and bracelets.
The Pandora brand quite literally exploded and in 2014 they opened up Pandora Torquay.
As time marched on, David and Regina started to contemplate retirement.
They made the difficult decision of closing down Gordon Rowe and expanding further into Conroy Couch where David continues to share his jewellery knowledge.
In 2019, tragedy struck when Regina was diagnosed with terminal cancer and passed away only a few weeks later.
This time it was David’s youngest daughter Michelle who was called on to step in and help out with the business.
On maternity leave at the time, Michelle took on the role of book-keeper and administrator and the businesses were able to continue operating during this difficult time.
By the end of 2019, David and Michelle decided that their father-daughter dynamic was working well and that they would continue to run both Conroy Couch and Pandora Torquay.
After a heart-breaking 2019 the worst, they thought, was surely behind them.
But we all know what 2020 had in store for the world...
Over the last 18 months David and Michelle sought to take advantage of being unable to trade - instead focusing their time on building their online presence with a new website and Instagram and Facebook pages.
While the UK high streets face tough challenges, David and Michelle believe that when it comes to all things jewellery, nothing can beat one-to-one high quality service backed up by stunning and unusual pieces.
They continue to look for new opportunities, new products and new ways to ensure all their customers receive the best possible experience in store.
And so the family business continues.