May 24, 2017
By Becky Randel | September 1, 2015 | Watches & Jewelry
When Julian Newbauer Sr. opened Kirk Jewelers in Miami in 1947, he launched a 68-year-long family legacy that would grow into one of the city's most successful independent businesses.
Allison Newbauer Strongin and Jeffrey Newbauer are the third generation to helm Kirk Jewelers in Miami. INSET, BELOW: Julian Newbauer Sr., aka “Mr. Kirk.”
Like its inventory, Kirk Jewelers is a rarity. As a third-generation, family-owned luxury jewelry store located in the heart of Downtown Miami’s jewelry district, Kirk was launched in 1947 when a young and energetic Julian Newbauer Sr. decided to expand his family’s diamond wholesale business from New York City to Miami after World War II, when massive amounts of people and businesses were moving here to seek opportunity and a better life. Today, the boutique is Downtown Miami’s oldest and only independent authorized dealer of coveted brands like Patek Philippe and Rolex—which is exactly why owners Jeffrey Newbauer and Allison Newbauer Strongin, grandchildren of founder Julian Sr. (aka “Mr. Kirk”), take such pride in their current roles. Ocean Drive sat down with the brother and sister, who took over the company from their father, Julian Jr., 10 years ago to talk jewelry, Miami, and the family business.
What was it like growing up in a jewelry store?
Allison Newbauer Strongin: I remember playing cops and robbers. There were bars in the back, so we’d play like we were in a jail cell.
Jeffrey Newbauer: I always enjoyed sitting at the watchmakers counter and disassembling the old watches. It would drive [my father] crazy because [my family] are extremely organized people.
Did you both always know you wanted to take over the family business?
JN: We grew up in the business, but we were never really drawn to it. After college, we did our own thing for a while.
ANS: Then we realized we both always loved jewelry, and we felt like it was something we could do well together.
JN: Just the thought that a family business like this could end…. With such a great opportunity before us, we decided to take over.
What is the dynamic between the two of you?
ANS: It’s always challenging working with family, but for us, it’s about choosing a role. Luckily, we have different skill sets, so we complement each other.
JN: And we both try to be considerate of business decisions and how they affect the other.
How would you describe your roles?
JN: I’m more on the showroom floor dealing with clients.
ANS: I handle a lot of the back end, working with the merchants, the business side of the inventory, the marketing and advertising.
What did you learn most from your father and grandfather?
ANS: [To value] relationships with the customer. We can push to get an item out of our showcase, and the person will leave and never come back, or we can sell them the right thing and have them come back over and over.
JN: It’s like a friendship with the clients. The reason our father was successful is because people came to him without getting that hard sell.
“We realized we both always loved jewelry and felt like [running the family business] was something we could do well together,” says Allison Newbauer Strongin, here with her brother, Jeffrey Newbauer
And those relationships benefit the client as well, right?
JN: Yes. We have rare, rare watches, and in order to purchase the watches with a warranty through an authorized dealer, a lot of times there is a waiting period. A watch like a Patek Philippe is a great example.
ANS: They’re really only going to be sent out for a specific customer, so that’s where it’s important to establish the relationship with your dealer.
JN: That brand, in particular, is owned by a father and son, and to them, the [watches] are like their babies, their pieces of art. They do care whose wrist they end up on.
How has the clientele changed since your father and grandfather were in charge?
JN: We have a lot more international clientele than I think our grandfather did.
ANS: We have a huge reputation in South America. A friend of mine is a realtor here, and she went home to Brazil for a party and said that five people were wearing Rolexes they had bought at our store.
How do you stand out Downtown?
JN: For us, it was really important to have the Fifth Avenue feel. Our boutique goes with the product; it’s in line with the luxury level of the product.
ANS: If somebody was drawn to Downtown because they heard it was a big diamond or watch area, and they find our store, they’re stuck with us for life. [Laughs] 142 E. Flagler St., Miami, 305-371-1321
PHOTOGRAPHY BY GARY JAMES (NEWBAUER STRONGIN), COURTESY OF KIRK JEWELERS (MR. KIRK)