It Runs in the Family
Some of the Triangle’s most well-regarded businesses have been handed down through the generations.
By Kurt Dusterberg
Reliable Loan and Jewelry
For many years, Alan Horwitz wasn’t sure he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps.
He had worked at Reliable Loan and Jewelry as a kid, running errands and doing deliveries. But it was not until college that he began to consider joining the family business.
“Not only did I enjoy it, but I knew I was taking over a well-oiled machine,” Horwitz says. “I was very fortunate to walk into a very well-established business. Being a third generation is pretty rare these days. I’m fortunate that my father built and grew the business the way he did with his name and reputation.”
Horwitz’s great uncle, Phillip, and grandfather, Abe, started the company in the 1940s. Alan’s father, also named Phillip, began working at age 19 when the business was called Dixie Loan Company and took over in 1976. The majority of the inventory today is diamonds and fine jewelry, although they sell some electronics and musical equipment.
And even though Alan is at the helm now, Dad still works full-time at age 74. “He’s seen everything just about,” Horwitz says. “I continue to ask his advice every day.”
As one generation yields to the next, new ideas are put in place. While his father learned the trade from his elders, Horwitz earned a degree from the Gemological Institute of America in New York City.
“My father comes from an old-school way of thinking,” he says. “I computerized the business. As technology became a big part of what we do, my father rolled with it, but at the same time, there are certain old-school ways which he will not change.”
Horwitz recognizes his father’s experience in the jewelry business commands respect.
“Thank goodness for the internet. My father didn’t have that,” he says. “He’s been doing this a lot longer than I have. You can’t replace experience.”
After all these years, Reliable Jewelry will change locations – but within the same downtown block on South Wilmington Street. The new location will feature 5,000 square feet on one level, and the store will receive a modern update with custom counters and showcases.
As a child, Joe Ann Wright would rush home from school to help her parents at work. In those hours, she received a second education.
“In the afternoons after school we would hang out and dust shoes and make bows for gift wrapping,” she says. “We would sweep and do anything that needed to be done. Most importantly, we had the opportunity to have great conversation and interaction with the customers.”
Today, Wright is one of four Kannon children who own men’s and women’s stores in Cameron Village. Wright’s grandfather, Isaac, founded the clothing store in Wendell in 1916. This year – the 100th anniversary of the store – marks the end of the family’s presence in Wendell, after the women’s store relocated to Raleigh in March. Throughout the past century, Kannon’s has enjoyed a reputation for fine clothing that has brought people from across North Carolina. But through the years, the clothier served the common needs of a bygone era, too.
“We’ve always carried better merchandise, but it was not just Sunday best,” Wright says. “People would buy for their everyday. Back to the Great Depression, we sold overalls to the farmers and boots to the North Carolina highway patrolmen (in the 1950s).”
In recent generations, half of the customer base came from Raleigh. The store does a lot of social-occasion business, outfitting not only brides and grooms, but also women looking for cocktail wear and gowns. Like the ownership itself, shopping at Kannon’s has been handed down through generations. Some clients are fifth generation.
“We’ve had these relationships that have been friendships for years,” Wright says. “We were taught to treat our customers as if they were coming into our home. People will meet friends here to shop for a couple of hours. It’s a gathering place.”
The women’s store on Cameron Street is 5,600 square feet, while the men’s store on Daniels occupies 3,600. Both locations put an emphasis on giving their clients that polished look. High-end men’s clothing lines are suited to professionals, while casual sportswear and outerwear are popular as well. The women’s store carries more than 100 designers with an eye toward elegance.
Bailey's Fine Jewelry
To hear Clyde Bailey tell it, the history of Bailey’s Fine Jewelry is a love story.
“It’s all about love and romance,” he says. “We love what we do because we get to help make people’s dreams come true. Jewelry does that more beautifully than anything else because it’s personal.”
Bailey was just a kid when he discovered the mystique surrounding diamonds and jewelry. From the back of his parents’ store in Rocky Mount, he watched and listened as customers deliberated over gifts for loved ones, full of anticipation and emotion.
“I could just see what a happy time it was,” he remembers. “They were buying something beautiful. I could hear my mother and dad explain it to them. It just did something to me deep inside. It was a seed that got planted.”
Clyde Bailey, Sr. and his wife, Ann, opened the business in 1948, but Clyde died at age 46, leaving Ann to run the business herself. By the time Clyde Jr. was 19, he had learned the watch-making trade, but he set out to become a certified gemologist. He wanted to make sure Bailey’s never had to send a customer elsewhere for appraisals or outside expertise.
Today, there are four Bailey’s locations, including an 11,000-square-foot store in Cameron Village. Clyde and his wife, Jane, remain front and center.
“We love the customer connection, being behind the counter and helping people,” he says.
The next generation is on board, too. Their son, Trey, and son-in-law, Doug, each play vital roles in the business along with other family members.
The original link in this chain of love, Ann Bailey, is 91 – and still making a remarkable contribution. As new generations of families come to Bailey’s, they bring in heirloom jewelry for fixes and modern touches. When they do, Ann shares memories from the past that might have otherwise slipped away.
“My mother can tell these young adults about conversations she had with their mother and father – or grandmother and grandfather – and the people just sit their listening,” Bailey says. “They soak it up like a sponge. I’ve seen grown people with tears coming down their face. That piece of jewelry is what’s representing those people who are long gone.”
Richard DeMartino has learned a few lessons along the way in the restaurant business. He is reminded of one in particular every night when he goes into work at Cafe Tiramisu.
“There are a few things you find out later in life,” he says. “You don’t name a restaurant for a dessert or food, because you always have to have it.”
As problems go, it’s a manageable one. Richard, his brother RD, and their father, Paolo, have owned Cafe Tiramisu since 1996. Their Northern Italian cuisine has been a local favorite ever since.
But long-time Raleigh diners have been loyal to the family dating back to 1976, when Paolo owned Piccolo Mondo. Richard was nine years old when he began washing dishes, before working his way up to busing and waiting tables. The family sold the business a couple of years before opening Cafe Tiramisu in the Northridge Shopping Center. Many of the veal and chicken recipes from Piccolo Mondo remain on Cafe Tiramisu’s menu.
Today, Richard and RD share kitchen duties, create new dishes, and operate the business. And Paolo? He will turn 88 this year. For many patrons, he’s still the star of the show. They come for the spinach fettuccine, but they love Paolo for his backstory. He was born in Italy, raised in Cairo, and met his wife in Cuba. He brings all of that to the restaurant each night.
“My father, he has a little bit of a temper,” DeMartino says with a laugh. “People love him, that whole attitude. He’s there every morning at 9:30am and he won’t leave until 10pm. He does his share of the kitchen.”
The DeMartinos have kept their philosophy simple through the years. Chef Paolo prepares the dishes he knows best, and they keep the tiramisu coming.
“You have to cater to what people like,” DeMartino says. “A lot of New Yorkers and (restaurateurs) who come to this town think, we’re going to teach these guys how to eat. We want to do what the customers want.”