Southeast Texas business built on 'shop here first'

Nederland Jewelers

By Shelby Strickland

Special to The Examiner 

Gladys Wojcik loves her business, loves her community and sees the fortunes of the two as deeply intertwined.

Wojcik has been a local business owner since 1980. After graduating from McNeese State University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, Wojcik opened Kitchens Unlimited. She then married her late husband, owner of Nederland Jewelers, in 1990.

“My husband opened Nederland Jewelers in 1978 down on Boston Avenue,” Wojcik said. “A lot of people were going to Houston to buy things, so we decided to move to (Highway) 365 and we opened (the current Nederland) store in 1999. We would actually go to Houston, look at Neiman Marcus, look at other stores, and we wanted those brands here so people wouldn’t go to Houston.

“In 2003, we opened the (store) in Beaumont, and we carried the same brands over there because those brands were not recognized by other stores in Beaumont,” she said. “In 2006, we opened the (store) in Lake Charles and did the same thing.

“It’s been very successful with us. That was our goal — to have people shop local, keep our money local, pay sales tax local,” she said, laughing.

Wojcik said the love of the business and people is what has made her successful.

“We like our customers,” she said. “We’re not in the mall, so people aren’t just walking down the hall coming in the store. They have to actually drive, park and get out of their car to see us. We think that it is a compliment when they show up.”

Wojcik has sold jewelry to Mark Chestnut, Tracy Byrd, and most recently, an engagement ring to Josh Hamilton. She takes pride in satisfying her customers not only with outstanding customer service, but also with hand-picked jewelry.

“I love jewelry myself and always have,” she said. “I love picking out jewelry, and when I go to market, I pick it out with customers in mind — a particular customer will like a particular thing. I don’t buy 25 or 50 of one. I buy one of one so that you don’t bump into somebody wearing the same thing. I enjoy the jewelry and making people happy with it.

“Our goal is to make everybody’s life a little bit better. There was a lady who went in the Lake Charles store Nov. 17 asking for me. She said she had bought a ring from me 25 years ago and she was still wearing it. Someone had given her a compliment the night before and she just wanted to come in and say thank you. That’s the kind of thing that makes you want to work more.”

Although Wojcik can primarily be found at the Nederland location, she invests just as much into the Beaumont and Lake Charles stores.

“My husband passed away in August,” she said. “He was working every day in the Beaumont store until he got sick, so we had me (in Nederland), him there, and we would both go to the Lake Charles store. Now I’m covering all three stores.

“He was sick for three years, so I’ve learned to take over what he didn’t do. I also delegate authority a little more to the other people that are working here. I’m still hands on. I have customers who will come in and ask for me. I try to get my bookwork out of the way, get it all done, and then I can go out and work the front. That’s the most fun part.”

Employees of Nederland Jewelers place an emphasis on customer service and aim to give friendly and reliable service, and do the most for their community, Wojcik said

“After the hurricane, several people came in that lost everything and their watches got wet,” she added. “One lady came in and she only had the clothes on her back and her watch because she had to swim to survive. We gave her a watch. We gave several out to victims of Harvey.”

Wojcik said it is important that she keeps her business local and keeps the three stores as active as possible. She believes supporting local business is how one’s city grows, how infrastructure is built, schools run, and tax money paid benefits the entire community.