written by Paul Holewa
Three countries. Four sons. Sixty years in business. Samuel Spil’s journey to the US is an inspiring and iconic American immigrant success story. When looking back at six decades of jewelry making, the formative years were the most challenging. And, the best years happened when a one-man show turned into a multigenerational family business guided by a simple philosophy: create and make jewelry that will sell quickly, in good times and bad.
“In 60 years Samuel Spil Company has never wavered from this business model,” says Linda Spil, president of Samuel Spil Company.
Samuel’s journey to America is proof positive that freedom and freewill are gifts of a divine nature. The youngest of seven siblings, Samuel was born in Poland in 1919. Geographically, Poland did not fare well at the close of the World War I and the start of World War II. From 1918 to 1939, Interwar Poland, as historians refer to it, was a tumultuous period.
At 17, Samuel left Poland and immigrated to Cuba in 1937, which turned out to be a good move at a good time. Two years later Germany invaded Poland at the start of World War II. Samuel joined two older sisters and one older brother in Cuba where the family jewelry business got its start. For nearly two decades the family and the family business were doing well. But under Fidel Castro turmoil and tyranny once again forced Samuel to uproot.
In October1960, Samuel’s wife Iris and their three sons made their way to America. The following year Samuel packed as much as he could carry and joined his family. Another country. Another language. Another opportunity.
“When he arrived in the US in 1961, he came with as much as he could carry [jewelry and personal belongings],” says Linda. “This was the start of Samuel Spil Company.”
In the early years Samuel repped a few lines of jewelry. As he became more established, he added in finished jewelry from other sources. After a few years the repped lines were dropped and Samuel was selling only jewelry created from his family business.
To keep operations going Samuel travelled North and South Carolina. “It wasn’t uncommon for Samuel to travel two to three weeks at a time,” Linda says. “His wife Iris watched over their four boys during his business trips.”
In 1980, relief came when his sons Gabriel and Paul joined the family business. Three years later, Morris came on board. “More hands make light work” as the saying goes. And, Samuel’s sons not only helped with the heavy lifting of day-to-day operations, they also brought fresh perspectives to the family business – especially Morris. He strongly advocated a vision for making Samuel Spil a nationwide jewelry manufacturing and wholesaling company.
The founding principle of providing quality jewelry retailers can sell quickly, in good times and bad, meant one thing: always having fast-selling inventory available to the retail jewelry customers. Having the latest jewelry fashions and what Linda likes to call the “oldies goldies” was paramount for success.
“As far as trends go, Samuel Spil Company’s best sellers back in the day were cluster rings, add-a-bead, butter cup diamond earrings, gents’ rings, trio sets and mothers’ rings,” says Linda. “The first real fashion trend was the circle pendant.”
Then as now, trend watching was “boots on the ground,” says Linda. Good old-fashioned reconnaissance and intelligence gathering. “Visiting New York and Providence, Rhode Island helped identify emerging and breaking trends,” says Linda. “But just as important was listening to retailer clients and getting their trends perspectives.”
The time-honored trend watching and information gathering has worked well for the company. But as information became more accessible and instantaneous over the years, Samuel Spil had to adapt as jewelry trends were everywhere on social media, movies, television, and print.
The same advancements of identifying trends have become the same online platforms for disseminating information on jewelry fashion trends. In working with their loyal retail jeweler customer base, Samuel Spil Company still sends out catalogs and even the occasional fax blasts. But these days it’s all about having high resolution images of products suitable for pinning and posting as well as print and email blasts.
On the topic of trends, the year ahead holds some uncertainties with COVID-19 variants making the pandemic that much more of a moving target. During such times, Linda recommends going back to the basics.
“Jewelry has become more of a treasured gift, something that lasts,” says Linda. “We have seen hearts, diamond essentials, and price-point items under $100 retail performing well. Yellow and rose gold will be big sellers in 2021. But we’re selling well in every single category we carry.”
Milestone moments such as a 60th anniversary mark the march of time. Celebrations are certainly in order, but the company’s founder and namesake, plus his sons Paul and Gabe, have passed away. Honoring their efforts and memories are part of observing the significance of this year’s noteworthy anniversary. Sixty years ago, however, Samuel not only started a company to take care of his own family he also sought to create a thriving business model for future generations.
“His grandsons are filling the spaces and continuing the legacy of their grandfather,” says Linda. “Joseph joined the family business in 2011 and Isaac in 2013. We will carry on with Samuel’s vision for his company. He was a hard worker and never complained about the challenges he had to overcome. Samuel always said you have to ‘dig’ for opportunities. And, we are going to keep digging.”