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GORDON JEWELRY CORPORATION

GORDON JEWELRY CORPORATION. Gordon Jewelry Corporation, a jewelry retailer with headquarters in Houston, was once the second-largest chain in the nation, exceeded in number of stores and volume sold only by Zale Jewelry Corporation. Meyer Morris Gordon, who founded the business, immigrated to Texas from Lithuania around 1894. After living with his family for a time in East Columbia and Galveston, Gordon opened a general merchandise business in Houston in 1905, selling groceries, shoes, and hardware. His first jewelry business was a partnership with Denis McGaughon known as McGaughon and Gordon, which opened at Houston in 1916. This store took the name Gordon's after World War I, when the founder bought out his partner and was subsequently joined by his sons and son-in-law in the family business. The first Gordon's jewelry store outside Houston was established at Beaumont in 1934, and in 1936 the firm expanded outside the state, to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In 1939 Gordon's achieved $1 million in sales, and in 1946 the firm moved to its first suburban shopping area location in Houston. Between 1946 and 1950 the company opened five more stores, and thereafter three to six stores were established regularly each year. Gordon's began to integrate its holdings after 1956, with the acquisition of other local and regional jewelry stores, and over the next thirty years a total of 450 to 500 Gordon's stores opened (including the first store opened in Puerto Rico, in 1960). The company went public in 1961 and acquired the Star Engraving Company of Houston in 1969. Net earnings increased from $1 million in 1964 to $10 million by 1974. By 1982 the firm employed 7,250 workers and operated 681 units in forty-four states and Puerto Rico. In the 1980s Gordon's sought to expand its market by offering jewelry valued from $5 to $100,000. The firm used a design staff located in New York and Houston, and purchased gold, diamonds, and precious stones. These it supplied to independent contractors for manufacture according to company specifications, thereby achieving lower unit costs and individualized styling. The company reorganized into two divisions. One division offered diamonds, watches, gold jewelry, and nonjewelry items to a middle-income clientele. The other division-modeled after local or regional stores such as Sweeney and Company of Houston and Linz Brothers of Dallas-catered to middle and upper income customers, selling china, crystal, and silver in addition to jewelry. Initially, the firm also maintained a catalog-showroom component, which it discontinued in 1987. Gordon's provided a management-training program for its employees. It also offered a profit-sharing program (beginning in 1953), and a stock-purchase plan (beginning in 1982). A stock-option plan for officers and key employees was introduced in 1976. The company was acquired by its chief competitor, Zale Jewelry Corporation, for $315,000,000 in 1989. Company founder M. M. Gordon is remembered in Houston for establishing the Meyer and Ida Sampson Gordon Camp on 150 acres southwest of Houston, and the Gordon Chapel at Houston's Temple Beth Israel.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

New York Times, May 25, 1989. Natalie Ornish, Pioneer Jewish Texans (Dallas: Texas Heritage, 1989).

Natalie Ornish

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Natalie Ornish, "GORDON JEWELRY CORPORATION," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/dhg01), accessed August 01, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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