It’s fitting and revealing that Tom Costigan’s handcrafted signature custom designed line is called Eternal Path®, and that his two favorite designs in the collection are called “Passion” and “Blessed.”
Celebrating the 20th anniversary of his Michigan store this year with special sales, parties and raffles, Tom - a state and national award-winning master craftsman - looks back at a career that has meant more to him than making a living.
“I was in the business so long and for so many years working behind the scenes,” says the owner of J. Thomas Jewelers in Rochester Hills, just north of Detroit. “I was doing the work, but unless I was on the road I didn’t get to see happy guests walk away. By the time I opened my business, it wasn’t about the money. I wanted to see happy faces walk out of my store.”
J. Thomas has been family owned and operated since 1995. Tom, who started out doing repairs and engraving at a small, independent jewelry store during high school, went away to college and trade schools, apprenticed with jewelry industry masters, and spent years traveling and overseeing repair services for large retail chain jewelry stores.
“When I finally went on my own, my dad didn’t think I could do it,” laughs Tom, who had young children at the time. Unfortunately, “by the time I opened my first store my father had become ill and passed away. I planned on another name for the store,” Tom recalls, but to honor his father he decided to couple both their names James and Tom. “That’s how J. Thomas came about, kind of after him. If somebody asks to speak to J. Thomas, my staff knows they don’t know us!” jokes Tom.
Tom’s dream had always been to own a freestanding building for his jewelry store; however, the cost of real estate in Rochester Hills is prohibitive. When the economy took a down-turn, Tom decided it was time to take a risk and realize his dream to become the anchor store in the plaza. The two end units were vacant, so walls were torn down and the creation of the new J. Thomas Jewelers became a reality.
Tom, who works with his sisters Noreen and Susan, explains, “we have a passion for people” and his vision was to “create a lifetime experience for our guests.” At the grand opening of the new store on December 4, 2010, the brick and mortar was rebranded with WeMakeLoveRock®! It stands for ‘magic, love, commitment and touching people’s lives’ which Tom feels communicates his mission and defines his promise to his guests. “Above all, J. Thomas prides itself in customer service; we go over and above,” says Tom.
For example: “Over the years we’ve realized that many lives have been touched and enriched by J. Thomas Jewelers,” said Tom. “One of the uppermost stories that touched my heart was a woman who brought in a family ring from her mother who had passed away. She had been referred to us by a local hair salon. Christie had wanted to give this ring to her granddaughter that had no arms. I took the ring and redesigned it as a pendant. When the grandmother came in to pick it up she broke down and cried. There was so much sentimental meaning for her and she was thrilled that her granddaughter would be the recipient. It’s moments like these that make all the hard work and sacrifice worth it.”
In 2005, the Independent Jewelers Organization (IJO) offered Tom the opportunity to attend a conference in Boston to see if he felt their organization would be of benefit to him. Two days prior to the conference, Tom and his sister Susan made last minute reservations and off they went to Boston. “It was the best decision I ever made,” says Tom, “a no brainer. Networking with other jewelers and business associates has been invaluable. IJO offers seminars that keep us up to date with industry trends and issues. Being a part of this organization has helped my business grow.”
Tom adds, “I live in an area that’s really strong. I’m really involved in getting our name out there, but it’s also about helping others.” Very active in the Rochester Chamber of Commerce and the 345-strong Sunrise Networking Group, along with supporting local organizations and charities Tom says, “it’s all about building relationships. I try to help them and know that in the long run it’ll come full circle back to me. Whether it’s a $15 or $20 grand purchase, all are equally valued.”
For instance Tom explains: “Bridal and loose diamond sales have increased since joining IJO and again after the expansion into my new store. Being a part of the group has given me the opportunity to travel to Antwerp, Belgium to purchase diamonds for the store and my guests. Even better, having a more expansive showroom has enabled me to offer a larger selection of diamond engagement rings and diamond fashion jewelry. We are currently featuring a fine collection of natural colored diamond jewelry from Rarest Rainbow.”
“We were a small business but grew more specialized with custom design work and custom bridal,” Tom explains. “We really do have the capability here to carve pretty much anything, by hand or CAD. I still love to carve, whether I’m creating something for the case or for a guest with a personal idea.”
J. Thomas has more than 80 years combined staff experience in watchmaking, custom design and repair. “I like my staff to be a team,” Tom says. “The way I treat them instills confidence and knowledge - they’re going to love doing this and feel like this is partly their business. Even though they don’t have a stake in it, they do. I have a really good staff, three full time, five part time. We’ll bend over backward to help a customer.”
This cohesive, experienced team is what led to the development of Tom’s pride and joy, the J. Thomas Jewelers patented Eternal Path® collection. Each pendant tells a story and the theme behind the collection is “life takes us in many directions but we always find our way back home”. In creating the collection Tom married two of his passions, custom design and supporting his local community.
The first design, the “Passion” pendant won Tom the IJO Custom Design National Award in 2012. The “Passion” pendant symbolizes “rejoicing in everything life has to offer!” Each of the 7 designs are handcrafted in gold or sterling silver, with or without diamonds and the gemstones of your choice.
For several years, Tom’s team has donated to the Ted Lindsay Foundation for Autism, founded by the Detroit Red Wings great. In celebration of Ted Lindsay’s 90th birthday and the Foundation’s 16th anniversary, Tom crafted the “Blessed” pendant.
The “Blessed” pendant treasures the uniqueness of each individual symbolizing that life unfolds on its own terms; the winners demonstrate character and persevere through life’s challenges with courage, never looking back but always paving their path home. As Ted Lindsay says, “Together we will beat autism!”