Margie Justice, right, and Amelia Justice, co-owners of Justice Jewelers, say they are diversifying the company's approach to advertising since the 2011 death of their father.
The Next Justice Generation
Twenty-seven years after iconic local jeweler Woody Justice coined the radio ad phrase, “I want to be your jeweler,” his daughters are now home and working in his absence to find their own voice.
Margie and Amelia Justice, daughters of Justice Jewelers founder and owner Woody Justice, who died following a stroke in October 2011, returned to the Ozarks in May to run the business together full time. Immediately following his death, the daughters opted to leave the day-to-day operations of the multimillion-dollar jewelry store in the hands of longtime managers, while they each completed key steps of their chosen career paths – one in a post-doctorate health care residency and the other an international master’s program in contemporary art.
“The plan was always for us to take over the store. It just happened sooner than we expected,” Margie Justice said on June 7, hours before they hosted the company’s 30th anniversary party at the store their father built on East Battlefield Road.
The 62-year-old Justice was working in his home office at the time of the stroke. His daughters, now sole owners of the company, said he never would have retired.
Converging backgrounds Before the daughters could take over the business where they had answered phones as teenagers and filled in during holiday breaks, they did what they could to finish the paths they were on.
Last year, Margie Justice completed a post-doctoral residency at Fulton State Hospital near St. Louis after earning a Doctor of Psychology at Roosevelt University in Chicago.
Amelia Justice received her master’s in contemporary art from Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London in 2012 after working as an assistant gallery manager in Kansas City.
“It’s tough being a part of people’s unhappy moments,” Margie Justice said of the domestic-violence and crisis counseling she was addressing at Fulton State. “It is actually really liberating to be a part of their happy moments.”
Amelia Justice said she has always had a passion for craft and contemporary art.
“That’s translated really beautifully to the art on your body,” she said.
Before coming home, the daughters also sought a traditional jewelry internship, which they received from family jewelers in the St. Louis and Washington, D.C., areas. It is tradition for the children of jewelry-store owners to work with other families to gain new insights into the profession, said Margie, who worked at Clarkson Jewelers in Ellisville, while Amelia interned at I. Gorman Jewelers in Washington. D.C.
“When dad passed, we were both in those locations, so we stayed in those locations and were taken in by these wonderful people who owned their own independent stores as a way for us to get our own training,” Margie Justice said.
While they are their father’s daughters, they have a different approach to marketing.
“Dad’s niche was the radio,” Amelia Justice said. “We are hoping to be able to tell our stories through the website and social media.”
Beyond the ‘Wizard’ Roy H. Williams, Woody Justice’s right-hand marketing man for 25 years and author of New York Times bestseller “The Wizard of Ads,” said he met with the Justice Jewelers founder in 1986 as a favor to Williams’ father – a friend of Justice. Williams, who runs Wizard of Ads Inc. in Austin, Texas, and its 48 offices around the world, said after his first meeting with Justice, he knew he could help him.
“I liked the hell out of him,” Williams said.
“Woody was extremely good at everything except advertising. The only thing he needed was the only thing I’m good at.”
The jewelry business, Williams said, is one where customers buy pieces infrequently. When they are ready to make a purchase, they want to go somewhere familiar or to someone they can trust, he said.
“The goal with jewelry is to simply be the jeweler people think of first and feel the best about whenever they need what you are selling. You need to feel like you know the person,” Williams said. “That’s why I always insisted that Woody did his own ads. Man, he fought me on that. He didn’t think they sounded professional.”
But that was the appeal, Williams said. And the strategy worked. Once they determined to focus on producing low-cost radio ads, Williams said the business jumped to more than $1 million in annual revenues from $350,000 within 14 months. Today, Amelia and Margie Justice said Justice Jewelers sells between $5 million and $10 million annually, but revenues were down in 2012. The daughters declined to site figures, saying revenues have stabilized, but are projected to be flat in 2013.
Williams said ads were typically generated out of sit-down sessions at his Austin home, where Woody Justice would talk freely about the things that were important to him and his customers.
“I’d let him talk 10,000 words, and I would take the best 100 of them and make an ad out of it,” Williams said.
He said Justice’s signature tagline – “I want to be your jeweler” – came out of a rant about how other jewelers are typically just diamond salesmen, but he wanted to be more.
Through the years, Justice stuck with radio, typically spending 90 percent or more of his advertising budget on the medium that made him a household name in the area. When he died, Williams said he stepped down in his role leading the business’ advertising efforts to let Justice’s longtime managers and daughters decide how they would move the business forward.
iPod world Though the Justice daughters declined to disclose details of any specific strategy, they said they are trying to mix it up these days with Springfield-based Red Crow Marketing Inc. and are focused on increasing their online presence. “We are wanting to get more into the storytelling, and that’s tough because the younger generations, the 20-somethings and 30-somethings are getting more of their information online and aren’t necessarily listening to the radio or watching traditional television commercials,” Margie Justice said. “We are a generation of iPods. We are a generation of Pandora radio. … Google and online are where media is moving toward.”
Red Crow President Ron Marshall said the Justice daughters are wisely diversifying their marketing efforts and following a trend among many of his clients.
“You can’t just completely leave the radio, especially when you’ve been branded as a company by the radio in the way that these guys have,” Marshall said. “You have to still have a presence there, but yet you have to figure out a way to make a meaningful impact on these new things you have to do.”
Williams said the medium is less important than the message. “The vehicle that delivers the message is kind of insignificant,” he said, adding that Woody Justice was gifted at being able to connect emotionally with people. “Jewelry is not and never has been a visual product. Jewelry is an emotional product.”[[In-content Ad]]