After decades of working in the jewelry business started by his father in 1939, longtime jeweler Eric Armentor, of Armentor Jewelers will retire and hand the family business to his son Mike.
Junius Amentor and a partner first opened as New York Diamond House on Iberia Street in downtown New Iberia with only a typewriter and $400 in borrowed money. The longtime business, set to transition to a third-generation owner, now has a location on the southern edge of the city at 1020 E. Dale St. and another in Lafayette at 1921 Kaliste Saloom Road in Parc Lafayette.
Some of Eric Armentor’s earliest memories of being in the store include sweeping the floors while his father, who briefly left the business after getting drafted during World War II, chatted with customers — creating a trust that would span generations.
“He loved people," Armentor said. "He was a talker, and he had an outgoing personality.”
From sweeping floors, Armentor became more involved in the family business with engraving various items from watches to trays and helping his brother polish the merchandise.
Armentor began working full-time at the store when he turned 18 in 1972, along with his brother who eventually went his separate way. Armentor went to school at the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now University of Louisiana at Lafayette) for three semesters, then helped run the store as his father’s health declined, eventually taking over the business.
“He taught me several principles I like to live my life by,” Armentor said. “‘Make a friend of every customer, and you’ll have a customer for life’ was one of his philosophies. ‘If there’s a will, there’s a way’ was another one.”
According to Armentor, keeping the business in the family is important to him because it’s keeping a legacy alive.
Like with all businesses, a family-run business comes with its own set of challenges. According to Armentor, “different schools of thought” is something he and his son have to compromise with. These compromises range from advertising to staffing to deciding what quality of products to bring in to sell to the customers.
“When I started, I was a big advertiser,” Armentor said. “It was the traditional media, paper, radio, TV. Today, it’s much more important to understand and being able to handle the social media part of it.”
Even though challenges arise, there is a fair share of rewards in working in a family business. One of these rewards for Armentor was having the flexibility of making his own hours to work coincide with having time to be with his family.
“As my boys were growing up, I was able to take at 4:30 p.m. or 5 p.m. and go coach them for baseball,” Armentor said. “Whereas other dads would finish their job and come at 6 p.m. It gives you that freedom and flexibility a little bit more to have your own business and family business.”
After going into retirement, Armentor said he is going to miss the day-to-day interaction with his customers. Armentor said he will also miss working with his staff, even though he will still come and help out in the stores from time to time.
Outside the jewelry store, Armentor is involved in his community. He served as the president of the Kiwanis Club of New Iberia as well as a member of the Chamber of Commerce. While in retirement, he wants to continue to be involved by volunteering with nonprofits.
“God calls us all in different ways,” Armentor said. “I’ve always thought I had a feeling that I owed my community, and I like it.”
For Armentor, he likes that his business is one of the “pleasant types.” He said it’s rewarding to see customers come back and say, “You sold me this ring” with a “warmth in their hearts.”
“This business allowed me to make a living, to have my family in the business, to keep the family name going,” Armentor said. “It gave me enough time to have interaction with the community, to be able to help with all these different groups I’m involved with. I think it’s just the total package. Looking back, I can say it was a pleasant type of business.”
According to Armentor, when he goes into retirement, he wants to travel with his wife and spend time with his family. Armentor said he thinks his father would be proud of him and his son.
“I think we’ve continued (Junius Armentor's) legacy of helping people, being friendly to people,” Armentor said. “We aren’t pushy with people. We don’t trick or strong-arm them into buying. We try to help them, so I think he would be proud. I think I can pat myself on the back enough to say, ‘I think I’ve done a pretty good job.’”
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