When Howard Tapper sold his car to raise the capital required to open his first jewelry store, he had little idea that his dream would not only become a reality, but would far exceed his wildest expectations.
Howard Tapper always wanted to be a business owner. It was nice working for other people, but he wanted to work for himself. And he wanted to work with family. Landing a job at a local jewelry store called E.L. Rice & Co in 1964, a light-bulb came on for him. This could be the future. But it would take years of hard work, learning the ropes from Mr. Rice, before he would be ready to strike out on his own.
Driving past a racket ball court in Southfield, Howard spotted the perfect location. For-Rent sign was in the window, square footage was modest, but the landlord knew the space had potential. Rent would not be cheap. He sketched out the design of his first store on a scrap piece of paper. No budget for fancy interior designers. It looked like his dream might become a reality after all.
But opening your own jewelry store requires more than just a strong work ethic and a drive to succeed. You need actual money. And Howard Tapper didn’t have much of that. He borrowed what he could from family. But it was still not enough… so he sold his car. Newly married, baby on the way, no car… Howard was risking everything on this crazy dream.
Hours of work went into renovating the store to make it beautiful. And then he bought his first inventory, on credit as well.1 With no funds on-hand to pay a staff, Howard Tapper once again called on family. With his wife and mother-in-law Trudy by his side, Howard opened Tapper’s Jewelry on May 7, 1977.
Success came quickly. The first day of business they managed to sell $1,025 - enough to pay that first month’s rent. Maybe this would work after all. And not a moment too soon; Baby-Marla was born the following December. Perhaps one day… he could afford to buy another car.2
The original location gave way to the current flagship store in Orchard Mall in 1994. One store became two in 2007 with the opening of Twelve Oaks. And Somerset Collection followed just a few years later in 2010. And then, like many family businesses, the time came to pass the torch.
Mark Tapper never wanted to be in the family business – not at first, anyway. After college, Mark became a teacher. He couldn’t help but start a business too. Learning much along way, he also learned that he needed to learn a lot more. Back to college - Harvard this time. And he started another business - tantalizingly close to the jewelry industry. But it was different enough, he convinced himself. In March of 2010 Mark was living and working in Las Vegas when he had “the conversation” with his father, Howard.
It was time to come home.
Today Mark Tapper works in his dad’s old office. (Howard graciously moved his desk into a more modest space) Mark’s Aunt Barb works just ten feet away. The ever-present freshly-baked treats at her workspace probably factored into that decision.
Tapper’s is a true family-business. Mark’s uncle Steven travels the world looking for unique specimens. And if he can’t find what he’s looking for, he custom designs it himself. Maybe it’s in the DNA.
Feel free to drop into Tapper’s to visit us at work. And ask to see the handscratched design of our first store. It’s framed, in all its scrap-paper glory for folks to admire. The snacks and refreshments we have waiting for you? Well… that was Aunt Barb’s idea.
1.If you were wondering why Tapper’s is delighted to offer convenient financing options, this might help explain.
2. Yes. Howard owns a very nice car now.
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