There are some article assignments that I enjoy more than others. And I have to admit that I was very happy to learn that we were doing a story on Robin Adolf Salzberg, co-owner of Lustre, a beautiful jewelry store that opened in the Ridge Shopping Center (1539 N. Parham Road) this past May.
The cause of my happiness was not that I’d be going to a jewelry store. To be honest, jewelry stores intimidate me. It was because I hadn’t seen Robin in a decade. Back in 2008, she was a model for several fashion shoots we did for this magazine. At the time, Robin was working with her mother (Susan Weiner Adolf) and uncle (Gary Weiner), who are the owners of Saxon Shoes. When I first met Robin, I was impressed not only with her poise and self-confidence but even more so with her unassuming and humble character.
I had not seen her since she had participated in a photo shoot for the magazine in October 2008. Robin soon left both modeling and her job at Saxon’s to start a family. In 2005, she had married Daniel Salzberg. After the birth of their two daughters, Ava in 2009 and Julia in 2012, she returned gradually to the work force, taking a job with her father, Ronnie Adolf, in his jewelry store. Saxon Shoes and Adolf Jewelry are inarguably two of the region’s most successful and storied businesses.
Fast forward to the summer of 2017, Robin and her father are having lunch at Westbury Pharmacy, another West End landmark business. Her father reveals that he is considering retirement. “Oh no, you can’t,” Robin remembers crying. She was also upset because, she says, her tears ruined her chicken salad sandwich.
Over the next four months, Robin tossed around the idea of opening her own jewelry store after her father’s retirement. “It’s in my blood,” she says of business ownership…actually, on both sides of her family.
Robin’s grandparents had created successful businesses in the Richmond area, which had been handed down to her parents. Saxon Shoes was started by her mother’s parents, Jack and Gloria Weiner, in 1953. And Adolf Jewelers was “born” back in the sixties when Ronnie’s mother, Jean Adolf, began selling costume jewelry inside Flair Apparel, a popular boutique, which was located in Willow Lawn.
After her father revealed his future plans, Robin says she began to weigh all of the factors in deciding what to do. “There were family considerations,” she says.
It had long been a dream to have a store of her own. But jewelry was not her first choice. “I was interested in fashion design when I was younger,” she says. “I figured my mother was in shoes; my father was in jewelry. I would open a dress shop and we could have our own Macy’s.” However, after joining her father, it all became clear, she says. “Once I started working at Adolf, it clicked for me.”
The need to finalize a decision was thrust upon her a little sooner than she had expected. In November 2017, her father announced that he would be retiring. In February of this year, Adolf Jewelers closed its doors for the last time.
Robin had begun to make plans for Lustre (officially, Lustre by Adolf). She asked one of her father’s employees, Daniel Wright, if he would consider being her partner in the business. “Daniel had no hesitation on taking this crazy journey with me, as its also been his dream to be a business owner.” Robin adds, “I have a husband Daniel and a work husband Daniel.”
Daniel (her business partner) had experience in the jewelry business, and had also worked in corporate America for both Apple and Disney.
She and her new partner invited two of her father’s sales associates/jewelers to join them in the business. Both women, Georgia Stolte and Annette Bonda, have brought their expertise to Lustre. There is also a full-time jeweler who does the repairs in the store.
In May 2018, Lustre opened its doors to the applause and relief of many of Adolf Jewelers’ longtime customers. “We have heard so many horror stories from people (former customers) who had to go elsewhere,” Robin says. She tells me, “Jewelry is a business where you can easily get taken advantage of. We, here, cannot fathom the way other stores treat their customers.”
I confess to Robin that I have long been intimidated by jewelry stores. Perhaps it’s all that glitter. “Our motto is taking the intimidation and pressure out of buying jewelry,” she tells me. “The price tag is scary enough; the experience shouldn’t be,” she laughs, although she’s quick to reassure me that there’s something for virtually any budget in Lustre, “from $20 sterling silver to $85,000 yellow diamonds.”
While I’m more of a $20 sterling sort of guy, it is comforting to hear Robin express her feelings on the subject. As I mentioned her down-to-earth persona was always refreshing. “I want people to know that we have something in here for everyone.” she says. “A lot of people didn’t think they could walk into Adolf and afford to buy anything. I never want someone to feel that way. That makes me feel funny when someone thinks we’re too hoity toity.”
Now, that’s my sort of jeweler. Lustre truly is a place where a guy could actually feel comfortable shopping for something for that special someone.
And regardless of just how special that someone is, you’re sure to find just what you seek. “Some people think we’re simply a boutique store,” The store may have a boutique feel, but look around, we are as fine a jewelry store as any.”
Indeed, the beautiful, yet comfortable and somewhat casual, shop offers a wide variety of wedding rings, diamonds, bracelets, earrings and necklaces; even children’s jewelry. “We have about six designer brands, including new designers; some that Adolf never carried,” she says. You can also find an estate jewelry section in the store and special orders can frequently be in the store within a day.
As we approach the year’s major shopping season, Lustre is gearing up with several trunk shows scheduled. “We offer gift certificates that never expire,” Robin says, “and regarding gift wrapping, “Our beautiful gift boxes are a presentation in themselves.”
In addition to both jewelry and watch repair, Lustre also buys and sells gold, silver and diamonds. Their experienced jewelers can also create the perfect gift. “If you see something you like, we can re-create it for you,” she promises. Or, they can take existing stones and create an entirely new piece of jewelry just for you or that loved one.
As our interview draws to a close, Robin reflects on the time spent working with her father. “I got to be with him every day. We are best friends, as I am with my mother.” She says she misses the regular association, but tells me that when her parents are not traveling or visiting her brother’s family (and new grandchild) in D.C. her father can frequently be found in Lustre. “Dad comes in wearing his flip flops and shorts,” she laughs. And he continues to provide her with some fatherly business advice. “We still have a lot to learn,” she says of her partner and herself.
“What is the greatest strength you gained from working with your father?” I ask her.
Robin pauses for a moment before replying. “To be kind and honest,” she says. “Anybody can learn a trade. I can always learn about diamonds. You can’t learn to be nice.”
To learn more about Lustre, visit online at HaveLustre.com and on Facebook or phone 804-285-3671.