Patti Catalano Braddock

Family Jewels

    When Patti Catalano Braddock started her jewelry business in Florida, she presided over 12 pieces, displayed in one small showcase. If someone came in and liked her work but couldn't find what they wanted, she'd custom make it for them. Thirty-two years later and two states away, Heritage Fine Jewelry is a respected family business and a fixture of Pineland Station on Hilton Head Island.
    So what's the secret to her success? Well, if you talk to her three children, the answer you might get is: child labor. "In my day, there was no such thing as daycare," said Patti. "The school bus dropped them off in front of the jewelry store."
    Now, all three of Patti's children have a stake in the business: Jennifer does appraisals and attends to the customers while her brothers, Doug and Patrick, take care of repairs, engraving and custom designs. Meanwhile Patti, who has been a goldsmith for 32 years, keeps the whole ship afloat, even if it means occasionally calling an "employee/family meeting to clear the air."
    "My mom raised the three of us by herself while she built the business," said Jennifer. "So not only was she an entrepreneur, she was a single mom too. We're so fortunate that she is such a strong person; she's created a good reputation and we're proud to represent this business."
    Though Jennifer has helped out at the store for just about as long as she can remember, she never thought she'd make a career of it. And she definitely never planned to work hand-in-hand with her siblings. But it seems to have worked out well for them, mostly because they all have different niches and have learned to complement each other's strengths and weaknesses. In fact, the family dynamic seems to put their customers at ease.
    "I think being as close as we are, our customers can relate to us," said Patti. "They've seen my kids grow up and they feel really comfortable with us."
    Jennifer adds, "Jewelry is about trust. When you take someone's jewelry, even if it's just for a cleaning, they may feel a bit uneasy. But when you say, I'm going to give this to my mom to fix, then they feel okay."
    Nineteen years after installing themselves in Pineland Station, it doesn't look like the Heritage clan is going anywhere. "The way I view it, I've instilled in them good business ethics," said Patti of her children and successors. "Our customers aren't just numbers; we build relationships with people. I just feel that the business is in good hands, because regardless of whether I'm here or not, our customers are going to get the same treatment they have had all these years."

Up Close

Hometown: Orchard Park, NY Hobby: her animals - golden retriever, two Shih Tzus and two cats Favorite piece of jewelry: her wedding ring with her mother's diamond Favorite thing about Hilton Head Island: how warm and happy the people are to be here How she starts each day: with a prayer