Courtneys Jewellers is celebrating 45 Years in Business.
Tell us about the history of the Courtney family …
The Courtneys originally came from Chatswood, Sydney. Bill worked as Company Secretary at FCW Powell & Co. – a large building firm at St. Peters, Sydney. Powells built buildings such as The Maritime Services Board building at Circular Quay, Technical College additions in Harris St. Sydney, Ward Block Wollongong District Hospital and many other major projects in and around Sydney.
When and why did Courtneys Jewellers first become established?
After leaving Powells, Bill went on to be Company Secretary of the then newly formed Retravision Buying Group at Petersham. Norma worked for the Bank Of NSW in Sydney.
A move to Armidale was taken after Bill suffered from serious asthma for many years, and it was suggested that a climate change would possibly help his condition.
There was an advertisement in a Sydney newspaper for an established jewellery store in Armidale that was for sale. Armidale had the climate, schools, etc. so the decision to move was made in late 1969.
The old APS Valiant (not so old back then) was loaded up with the four children, and the Courtneys arrived in Armidale and purchased the jewellery business from the Sourry Brothers at 182 Beardy Street in January 1970.
Bill and Norma invited Norma’s brother, Greg Halpin, from Murwillumbah to join them, as Greg was currently a watchmaker. Both Greg and his wife, Marj, joined the Courtneys and traded as Courtney and Halpin until the Halpins returned to the Tweed in 1973, then the Courtney family took over total control of the business. And the asthma issue – after three years, the climate change seemed to work.
Bill and Norma’s son, David, joined his parents after leaving school in 1975.
In 1980, Bill passed away from a heart attack. A decision had to be made after the death of Bill whether David to continue on in the trade or change career paths. In 1981 David’s wife, Mandy, joined up with him and his mother and the business then continued trading.
In 1990 David and Mandy took over the business from his mother when Norma retired. Norma has been living in Murwillumbah since retirement for 25 years now.
Over the years Courtneys have employed several staff members; most of the staff have been with them for many years, with the exceptional staff member Emma Hooper having been with David and Mandy since moving into town from Aberfoyle 25 years ago.
Courtneys moved into the current location, Shop 6, Dangar Street on 11th December 1984; 30 years have just passed in December. Since they opened in Shop 6, there is no other business that originally opened in the then New Corner Complex around them now. The Corner Complex building was the old Richardsons Furniture and car park incorporating the East-West Airlines building.
Describe the changes in the jewellery industry over the years …
Since 1970, the jewellery industry has certainly changed, from when we started to nowadays. A traditional jewellery store would be a place to buy gold and silver jewellery, a good qualitity watch, silverware, beautiful china and quality glassware. Today, silverware companies like Rodd, Strachan, Ranleigh we used to deal with are a thing of the past, as the companies are no longer trading. There is a lot more competition now, with lower quality product being sold in various stores for price, rather than quality.
The digital watch revolution in the mid 1970s was very exciting. The era was transforming from automatic/manual mechanical watches to battery digital watches and analogue (hands) quartz watches with probably digitals comprising 75% of sales then. This Quartz revolution was incredible: to get a watch that was + or – 30 seconds a month accurate was fantastic, compared to the mechanical mainspring driven watches which would be that sometimes in a day.
Trends come and go in jewellery also. Tell us about these … what remain old favourites?
A change in wedding rings has occurred also in the last 10 years. What traditionally was a plain gold band for a wedder, now is for a diamond set band and also, two golds in their formation is popular. A recent change in ladies watches to larger size watches being produced alongside the smaller styles have made it easier or more practical for those who want something clearer to read – perhaps it is an age thing, when our eyes seem to change.
A big push for brand names has been promoted nationally lately. We at Courtneys have felt that a piece of jewellery purchased by Courtneys is a brand itself, rather than a nationally promoted product … and yes, we do and in the past have sold many brands.
In 1991, Courtneys joined the then newly formed Nationwide Jewellery buying group. At this time jewellery retailing was getting tougher, with the “chain stores” starting to appear in many country areas. Being a member of the Nationwide Group of jewellers gives us the edge in buying product at competitive rates from some of the largest manufacturers, jewellery importers, suppliers and even smaller boutique manufacturers, which reflects in the stock for the consumer.
Internet shopping these days has affected the shopfront retail jeweller; one has to be careful with this type of shopping, as we have encountered many who are disappointed purchasing jewellery using this process.
What do the Courtneys do outside of work?
We (David and Mandy) have numerous interests outside the jewellery business. We unwind on our farm on the outskirts of Armidale, growing out Angus steers, doing general farming work and enjoy gardening. The recent rain has been so welcome, after the last three years of the dry springs; let’s all hope this dry has broken.
In 1997 we joined our local Rural Fire Service and have given many active hours to the cause. David is the current Captain of the Herbert Park District, a position held now for five years, and encourages anyone contemplating joining a fire service to do so, as the help you can give to this service is very rewarding.
We, as most know, have a passion for motorcycles in all areas, but mostly now concentrate on our road bikes; we try to take a big road trip each year of up to 5,000 km, which we thoroughly enjoy. We also do lots of smaller short trips with friends when we can throughout the warmer parts of the year – getting too old now for those trips when it’s only single figures in degrees.
Camping is another interest we have, with finding the spare time most difficult – maybe we’d better retire to find some time to pursue our interests …but not yet; they say we are too young!
Plans for the future …
Courtneys have been very proud to serve the people of Armidale and districts in our trade for 45 years and thank them for the support they have given us. When you look around, there are probably not all that many businesses that have reached this milestone, being owned and operated by family for so long. For the future, with the custom and support that has been given to us over the years continuing, the Courtneys will be about for a while yet. Who knows, Tracy … maybe the front cover for 50 years!
Thanks David and Mandy.