The Jeweler's Granddaughter!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Not only am I a jeweler's daughter, but first and foremost, a jeweler's granddaughter! In 1965, while my dad was busy putting himself through college, my grandfather, Manuel Berkowitz, opened Factory's Inc on Luckie Street in the heart of downtown Atlanta.
PaPa was no stranger to the jewelry business; by then, he had worked in the industry for nearly 20 years. After returning home from WWII in 1946, he spent eleven years earning his chops as a sales associate at Citizen's Jewelry on Mitchell Street. His sales expertise did not go unnoticed; in 1957, he was approached by Ben Hyman & Co, a thriving catalogue showroom in the tradition of Service Merchandise, to help open a jewelry department. He went on to manage this jewelery department for eight years during the heyday of catalogue based commerce.
In April 1965 (drum roll...!)PaPa Manny started Factory's on a shoestring budget. He inititally had a partner, but within 6 months, the guy got cold feet and backed out (as an aside, 5 years later, my dad ran into this guy selling shoes at Sears). As a new business owner, Papa wasn't yet taking home a salary. To make matters worse, he was supporting his aging, ailing immigrant parents. It took some fancy footwork and a brief partnership with a conniving relative (can't you just hear the skeletons rattling in the closet?!), but, with the help of my grandmother and Uncle Rick, he was able to keep on keepin' on, as they say.
In 1966, just as he was starting to tread with his head above water, PaPa got robbed at gunpoint while (fortunately)my Grandma and uncle Rick (at the time, a 14 year old office lacky) were out to lunch. The gunman, posing as a customer right before pulling the gun, said that he had been referred by Ben Hyman (my grandfather's former employer, and at this point, a competitor). "That's odd" - PaPa barely had time to register the thought before a gun was in his face. The gunman assured PaPa that if he did as he was told, no one would get hurt. He tied him up w/ duct tape and cleared the place of $66,000 ($300,000 adjusted for inflation) worth of jewelry. It was - at the time - the biggest jewelry robbery in the history of the state of Georgia. Three days later, the FBI, with the help of a detailed police sketch, caught the culprit - Francis Barnes Scott - hanging out in a flophouse at Piedmont and 10th Streets.  Wanted on multiple counts - including murder - all over the country, the police asked him, "Why didn't you kill Mr. Berkowitz?", to which he replied, "I wasn't paid to do that." It was discovered that he earned $3,000 per robbery and $5,000 per killing. The judge tried to cut a deal with Mr. Scott - a lighter sentence in exchange for information about the jewelry's whereabouts. His response: "If I do that, I'm a dead man." He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, plus presumable further sentencing for his previous crimes.
My grandmother was emotionally shattered by the event, and it took her years to recover. My grandfather installed a superior security system, and then around 1968, moved the business a bit north on Luckie Street, right above the storied Leb's Restaurant. It was then that my dad joined the business.

To be continued....!


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