by RONA MANN

He always knew what he wanted.

He wanted a steady list of customers for whom he would tirelessly work until they were 100% satisfied.

He wanted customers who would remain year after year because of the service he could provide.

He wanted to be his own boss and only deliver the best.

He was seven years old.

beckers-old-saybrook-storeDifferent? You bet. Paul Becker is different. Very different. Hard work and 100% perfection is all he has ever known, ever wanted. He doesn’t think that’s different at all. It’s the only way he’s ever done business.

Paul Becker did indeed begin working at age seven. “I was raised with a high ethical work standard,” he says. “I wanted a baseball glove. No one was going to give it to me, so I worked for it. I began by shoveling snow every winter. I made sure I built a strong list of customers, so every time it snowed, I knew I could count on them…and them on me. Summers I mowed their lawns and tended to their beds. In the fall I sold souvenirs at the Yale Bowl. I was always working.”

By the time Becker was 13, “I knew I wanted to work for myself. I also had a natural love for jewelry from the time I was very young.”

So while other young men were playing sports or video games, Paul Becker would take the bus to downtown New Haven and go in and out of jewelry stores, studying the various stones, admiring the unique designs, and culling a strong appreciation for the artistic value of jewelry.

The precocious young man also knew what he wanted in other areas of his life. He married at the very young age of 17; at 18 he was convinced he would embrace jewelry as his livelihood, and at 19 he told his wife, Risa, “I don’t need college any longer. I need gemology school. I’m going to drop out. She wasn’t happy about that, but I did it anyway, taking gemology courses by mail at home. You could do that in those days.”
At the age of 20 Becker procured his first job in a jewelry store. “I was to do some engraving and run errands. The regular engraver wore jeans every day because no one would be seeing him, and he’d take the whole day to do his work. From the beginning I  always wore a suit and tie to work, learned to do my engraving in a half day, and worked my way onto the sales floor, which is what I wanted.”

After being sent to different stores, filling different roles, Paul worked his way up to becoming a jewelry store manager. Because of his highly unusual work ethic at such a young age, Becker also knew well the value of a dollar. “I realized early on that people can spend their money anywhere; you have to give them a reason to spend it with you.”

It was upon this strong, ethical foundation that in 1978, at age 28, Paul and Risa opened Becker’s Diamonds & Fine Jewelry in West Hartford. From the first they set about laying a foundation for a tradition that embraced two tenets: making customers 100% happy and their experience 100% perfect. No shortcuts. No excuses. They wanted each and every person with whom they did business to be “wowed.” They didn’t want one time purchases. Like the seven year old boy with his list of steady, satisfied customers, Becker sought to build a clientele of lifelong relationships based on trust and his ever-present goal of perfection.

dsc03289-copyThat small flagship store was expanded some 19 years later to include a goldsmith shop. Becker’s flourished, the new size never taking away from everything on which the business was built. Finding the right piece, searching for a special diamond, designing, repairing, and doing whatever it took until each customer was 100% satisfied. Today, some 38 years later, Becker’s Diamonds & Fine Jewelry still operates that way. They don’t know anything else.

“I tell my staff all the time we sell value, service, and professionalism. People can go anywhere. Give them a reason to come to Becker’s.”

The stunning Old Saybrook store filled with rare gems in exquisite settings, gleaming seductively from under the glass, opened two and a half years ago on Elm Street in the same shopping plaza as Stop and Shop. “We don’t have a lot of street traffic,” Becker says, “but we have an exceptional inventory and dedicated team members who share my passion for fine jewelry.”

One of those who ardently shares that passion is Suzy Collins, a mainstay of the Saybrook store. “It’s true we don’t get a lot of drive-by traffic,” Suzy says, “but we have built this location through word of mouth from a very loyal customer base and from the reputation the West Hartford store has. We buy the finest jewelry from all over the world, and the way Paul Becker has built this business is amazing. It’s all about people. About our customers and also about us. Paul never hesitates to pick up the phone to tell us we’re doing a good job or asking if he can help in any way.”

Collins is indicative of the kind of employee Becker seeks out. “They have to share in my passion for this business,” Becker reiterates, “while also realizing that the customer  is our boss.”

Thedsc03294-copy Old Saybrook location (managed by Mark Sikand), like the West Hartford store, has both brand new and estate jewelry. “Not your grandma’s old jewelry,” Becker is quick to add, “but previously owned one-of-a-kind pieces people fall in love with. And we sell it for nearly half the price of new. We also buy diamonds, fine jewelry, and better Swiss watches, so if someone wants to downsize, upgrade, or just would like some extra cash, they can bring their valuables to either location.”

Additionally, Becker’s Diamonds & Fine Jewelry in West Hartford boasts one of the largest inventories of fine jewelry in the United States, featuring custom work by onsite designer, Michael Lublin.

Becker concludes,“When people fall in love, they come see me. When they get married, they come see me. When they want to give a gift, they come see me. And now we’re seeing the second generation of customers come to us for the very same reasons. We help people celebrate the special moments in their lives. I never want to stop doing that.”

Not much has changed for Paul Becker, for when he first picked up that snow shovel at age seven and went to work, he could see nothing but a clear, straight path to success.

Becker’s Diamonds & Fine Jewelry, 105 Elm Street – The Old Saybrook Shopping Center – (860) 391-8281
Visit their flagship store when you’re in West Hartford at 65 LaSalle Road (860) 521-3202  www.beckers.com

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