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Wednesday, Aug 10, 2022
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Diamond in the Rough

Lula Halfacre, chief executive and cofounder of Newport Beach’s Traditional Jewelers, has weathered a few trying, tough years.

Her husband, Marion Halfacre, unexpectedly died three years ago from a heart attack. The couple had run the iconic jewelry store together for the better part of 30 years.

Lula Halfacre always took care of accounting and marketing. Marion Halfacre was in charge of diamond and watch buying and sales.

Marion Halfacre’s death put her in charge and hastened the ascension of son Erik Halfacre. He became president last September after working at the store since 2003 and being groomed to take charge by his father.

Just as Lula Half-acre was dealing with the death of her husband and succession in the family business, in came the recession. The downturn that hammered luxury stores took its toll on Traditional Jewelers.

“It’s like life,” Lula Halfacre said. “You have things that are unexpected.”

Business has been getting better since the holidays, according to Lula Halfacre.

“We feel confident that things are coming back,” she said.

Lula Halfacre was one of five businesswomen honored at the Business Journal’s 16th annual Women in Business award luncheon May 25 at the Hyatt Regency Irvine.

She learned the jewelry business with her late husband by taking gemology classes. Now daughter Natalie Halfacre is studying gemology and is expected to start working at the store in December, Lula Halfacre said.

Store History

The Halfacres opened their first jewelry store in Lula Halfacre’s native Mississippi.

In 1979, they moved to Newport Beach to open a store here, just before Erik Halfacre was born.

In 1991, the business moved to its current 6,000-square-foot store at Fashion Island. Traditional Jewelers also has an 800-square-foot watch store in Malibu that opened in 2008.

The company employs 33 people including three full-time jewelry designers.

Lula Halfacre’s advice for aspiring women business owners: “Find something that you

love and believe in, and try to make a living at it.”

If you love what you do, “it’s not work, it’s your passion,” she said.

Lula Halfacre said she was fortunate because she and her husband both shared the same passion and often agreed on business decisions.

The jewelry business drew her in because it’s an uplifting industry with its ties to special occasions, Lula Halfacre said.

November and December typically are strong months for the business, she said. Valentine’s Day also is brisk.

“The good news is there are birthdays and anniversaries all year long,” Lula Halfacre said. “It’s a real positive industry.”

Diamonds and watches are Traditional Jewelers’ top sellers.

“Diamonds are still No. 1,” she said.

The store also refurbishes and redesigns jewelry.

“Custom design in the slower times really picks up,” Lula Halfacre said.

Yvette Eckman, Traditional Jewelers’ master jeweler, does designs.

Traditional Jewelers finds new ideas in Europe. The largest jewelry and watch fair is in Switzerland, Lula Halfacre said.

“We handpick what we think would work best for our clients in Newport,” she said.

Erik Halfacre often does buying, she said.

“He has certainly stepped up to the plate,” Lula Halfacre said.

He also handles the running of the day-to-day operations.

“As with any relationship there’s always those challenging days, but we work together well,” she said.

Erik Halfacre’s wife, Bonnie Halfacre, also works at the store. So do Marion Halfacre’s sister, Sarah Verble, and her husband, Bruce Verble.

Lula Halfacre said she would like to retire and see her son and daughter carry on the business.

She recently took up golf.

“I’m still taking lessons,” she said. “My husband and I were going to do that as we slowed down a bit. I thought it was something I should continue.”

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