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Attracted to History

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  • | 10:00 a.m. August 15, 2014
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Business: Alvin Magnon Jewelers, Tampa

Generations: The first of four generations to work for the company, Alvin Magnon bought the business in 1935, after working 22 years at the jewelry store. Magnon's two sons, Alvin Lee and Cameron, ran the store together until they split the business into two stores. Winnie Magnon Marvel, Alvin Lee's daughter, is now president and owns the majority of shares of Alvin Magnon Jewelers. Marvel's two sons work at the jewelry store part-time.

Family Ties: Winnie Magnon Marvel was always fascinated with her family's business. Owning a jewelry store seemed so charming and beautiful, and she was proud of her lineage.

But Marvel now knows working in a family-owned business does not always have the glitz and glam expected. Sometimes family dynamics can be a challenge.

That's why the 52-year-old president of the jewelry store is letting her sons figure out their own career paths before planning her succession.

Magnon Jewelers is Tampa's oldest jewelry store, founded in 1890 by Hugh Adams. Alvin Magnon became one of Hugh Adam's top jewelry salesmen, and eventually ended up buying the business from Adams in 1935.

Magnon passed the store on to his two sons, Alvin Lee and Cameron, but eventually the two brothers decided to split into two businesses due to different management styles. “When it comes to siblings, you have to be able to have perfect give-and-take in order to make that synergy work,” Marvel says.

Marvel was 20 years old when she started working for her dad, Alvin Lee, along with one of her older sisters, Patty. With siblings it can be difficult to figure out the balance of power, Marvel says. “You have a pecking order in a family, based on where you came. That doesn't necessarily translate into who should be either in control or the lead on something.”

But Marvel also says that working with family can be a business's greatest asset. “You can share things in an intimate way about your business and you can discuss with the person you trust more than anyone else.”

In 1997, Patty decided she wanted to concentrate on spending more time with her family, taking a step back from the business. When Alvin Lee died in 2012, he gifted the majority of his shares to Marvel.
Though Marvel declined to share the company's revenue, she did admit that the recession has been tough on the jewelry business. Perhaps the greatest trait she's carried on from her father is “stubborn optimism” — because that's what keeps her in the business, she says.

Now Marvel's two sons, Nathan, 23, and Davis, 21, are both evaluating their roles in the business. “It's always a thing, if the transition from adults to children is going to be a good fit,” Marvel says. Nathan wants to learn everything from gemstones to management, while Davis hopes to go to school to be a jeweler and is more mechanically inclined, according to Marvel. “They're young, so the jury's out, we'll see,” she says.

Marvel says she's holding off for a bit on a succession plan. “The child that I have, the person that is interested the most and they want to run it, they want to take the brunt of the work, then they deserve” the majority stock shares, she says.

“If they say they want to step up to the plate, say they are serious, and they make the commitment, then I'd be more than happy to do that and I will try to hammer out those details.”



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