- Words by Tess Van Straaten Photography by Lia Crowe
Oak Bay jewellery store owner and entrepreneur Geoffrey Beattie is quite accustomed to people recognizing his voice, thanks to the distinctive New Zealand accent so many of us have heard on radio ads for Barclay’s Fine Jewellers over the last two decades.
“I’ve had people come in and say, ‘Oh, I feel as though I know you already,’ and I’ve had people come in and say, you’re much older, or taller, or shorter than I thought you were!” laughs Geoffrey, who expanded to television ads on CHEK a few years ago.
“When I came to Canada, I wasn’t sure if my accent would be a positive or negative, but I tried it all the same, and I actually found it’s been a benefit because it’s helped to differentiate me.”
High-end jewellery in exquisite and unique settings has also helped to differentiate Barclay’s Fine Jewellers, which Geoffrey bought in 1999 after moving to Victoria with his Canadian wife, Chris.
“We were taking a big step, deciding where we wanted to live and raise a family,” Geoffrey explains. “We’d been to Victoria several times and I always loved it here. We liked the size of the city. I was ready to open my own store, and this seemed like a good fit.”
Geoffrey initially started his career in a management program with a big New Zealand department store, but jumped at a serendipitous opportunity to train with a jewellery store manager. He’d been working in the jewellery industry for 13 years and was managing stores in Christchurch when they decided to make the leap to Canada and his own store.
“I love dealing with customers—I guess that’s my strength—and being able to relate well with people and figure out what they need or want,” says Geoffrey, who does a lot of the jewellery designing. “There’s a big creative aspect to it and, more and more, our product is a stand-alone product and you can’t get it anywhere else in Victoria.”
On my visit, a glittering $126,000 diamond caught my eye, along with several spectacular rings that you would otherwise only see in big city jewellery stores.
“One of the biggest lessons [I’ve learned] is that a lot of places think they have to keep increasing customers or traffic. But really, for me, it’s not so much the amount of people coming through, but having the right product and appealing to a niche market,” the 56-year-old says. “It’s more about having the right customers come through your door.”
The design and décor of the store have been taken up a notch, thanks to an extensive renovation that was recently completed. The boutique-style space, infused with gold and grey tones, exudes luxury. It was created by Victoria designer Ivan Meade.
“This has just been a progression of 22 years of building and aiming towards a desire and a passion to have a beautiful store. That takes money and that takes time,” Geoffrey says. “I’ve just built things up over the years at a pace that’s comfortable, but there have been challenges at times.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has been the most recent challenge to navigate, even though the high-end jewellery market hasn’t taken the financial hit that’s impacted the bottom line of many other sectors.
“Our industry, as a whole, has been very fortunate because people haven’t been travelling and [so] they’ve been spending,” Geoffrey explains. “We’ve all had to work within new constraints, but I don’t think I’m alone in saying there are a lot of pluses that have come from it—one of them being that we’ve been able to regulate the flow of traffic in the store with appointments, and that’s been a big benefit because I sometimes feel pulled in all directions.”
Over the years, Geoffrey says, his biggest mistake was worrying too much, since “a lot of what you perceive to be problems are often magnified in your mind.”
“I look back on the times I was worried—my rent went up a lot and that caused me to worry, and then I expanded to two levels instead of one and I was concerned about that. But if I could have not worried as much about the decisions I made and trusted that I was following my gut, I might have not had as much anxiety about the business. Generally, when you follow your gut you get it right.”
Geoffrey says the challenging times have taught him to be resilient, pointing out that you don’t learn as much when the times are good.
“The learning or growing pains or whatever it is—that’s actually what gives you confidence going forward. We’ve had these major events along the way, like the tech crash and 2008, and when you know you were able to get through it and be okay, that just gives you more faith in the future going forward.”
The future of this successful family business includes Chris, who does the books, and the couple’s daughter, Danielle Beattie, who started working at the store when she was 15 years old. Danielle didn’t think it would be her career but, like her dad, she’s found her passion.
“I really like the connection you get with people and I just love jewellery, too—that’s probably been ingrained into me!” laughs Danielle. “I feel very fortunate that we have the kind of relationship where we’re able to do that because we’re together all the time.”
For Geoffrey, it all comes down to doing what you love.
“I think you have to be very passionate about what you do because you are going to come across times of struggle, and when you know what you’re doing is what you believe in and enjoy, that helps you get through it.”