This month, Freddy Yarmus celebrates 36 (!) years working at Feldmar. We are delighted to feature him today on the blog.
Freddy’s impressive tenure is certainly a reflection of his equally impressive character. He is charming, witty and truly embodies all that it means to be #FeldmarFamily. Get to know Freddy and hear about his experiences at Feldmar below.
What did you do before starting at Feldmar?
I went to college and worked part-time at a store that sold silver goblets, jewelry and books. While I had some retail experience here and there, Feldmar was my first full-time job.
Are you originally from the area?
I was raised in LA but I wasn’t born here. My parents were from Poland. They both left in the mid-20s and met each other years later in Cuba before getting married in 1948. I was born in Cuba, and then we all came to the States when I was three. I like to call myself a Jewban, a Jewish Cuban!
When did you start at Feldmar?
January 30th, 1984. I was in my mid-20s. I’m about to begin my 37th year with the company! I was interviewed by Sol and started shortly after my interview.
My friend Elie introduced me to Feldmar. He and I go way back to since we were 9 years old. We grew up in the same neighborhood, went to the same Synagogue and in our teen years, attended Dodgers games together, went bowling and went to movies (always staying out of trouble, of course). We then lived together for three years. He was hired by Harriet Feldmar and started just one year before me. To this day, I’m not sure if I love him or hate his guts for getting me this job. We’ve had some funny, funny times over the years.
What has changed in the past 35 years for you? For Feldmar?
Personally, I married my wife and had a daughter while working at Feldmar. In June, my wife and I will celebrate 22 years. My daughter is 18… going on 40.
When it comes to the business, the internet and social media have been some of the biggest changes. Sol wasn’t much into the computer. It’s not that he objected to it, but he just really believed that you needed to talk to customers over the phone or face-to-face in order to have a connection.
When it came to the holiday season in particular, it used to be truly mind-boggling—it was like Black Friday in the store every single day. People were literally stepping on each other’s toes. We’d be so drained mentally and physically by the end of the day, but we never had to watch the clock. 9-5pm went by in the blink of an eye! Now, people can shop from the comfort of their own home, and it has changed things a bit. The digital shift hasn’t necessarily been for the worse, but it’s definitely something we’ve had to adapt to as a company.
While we still have the largest variety in the Western U.S. or perhaps the whole country, in the “old days,” there was almost no competition. Customers came into the store, spent time with the watch and either bought it or didn’t!
In the digital age, how do you still maintain the connection with customers?
It basically comes down to the kind of person I am… I generally talk more than I should. Most of my sales still occur the old-fashioned way—someone calls and asks for me because I’ve helped them in the past or they come into the store and I assist them face-to-face. I have the utmost respect for those who can sit at a computer all day but it just isn’t me. Luckily, there are still tons of people who prefer to buy in person!
I’ve never had a customer be angry at or yell at me. I believe that the customer is always usually right. If I do sense someone getting frustrated, I turn them over to another staff member. That connection is so important, and if they don’t have it with me, they just might have it with someone else.
What makes Feldmar different?
We have what it takes—the name, the knowledge and the patience—to stand the test of time.
We also remain one of the few places that performs repairs on the premises.
However, the biggest differentiator is how we treat our customers. While other stores might leave a customer hanging when they feel they aren’t a serious buyer, we don’t. If someone comes in, I don’t care who they are, how serious they are or how much they want to spend. I devote time to them and I treat them the same as I would any other customer. Word of mouth is still very, very important, and if a customer has a bad experience at Feldmar, they will certainly talk about it.
What are some of your best Feldmar memories?
Just all of the laughs we’ve had over the years. There have been so many.
Specifically, in the 80s, I remember a very classy woman coming in wearing a beautiful white evening gown. She told one of my coworkers a joke and he SPAT his coffee out onto her dress. We laughed about it the whole day and then some. Even Sol and Rose (Scott’s late aunt) laughed so hard that I thought something was wrong—they were crying so hard!
Once we had a customer pull out $5 from his sock to pay for a watch battery… the list goes on and on.
What is your biggest achievement at Feldmar?
I stayed mentally sane. Haha, just kidding.
I think it’s just the fact that I’ve been with the company through multiple generations (Barney & Harriet, Sol, Scott). I am third in terms of tenure and I’ve had the opportunity to work with so many genuinely good people. Not only are they great at their jobs, but they are also people you want to be around. It’s not a store… it’s a family.
Who from the #FeldmarFamily has had a big impact on you?
Sol Meller. When I started working, I didn’t know a watch from a bar of soap. I had to train, and Sol taught me everything I know.
He interviewed me, and I have to say, he was a little nuts… but what a wonderful, down-to-earth human being. If any cliché fits him perfectly, it is that “his bark was worse than his bite.” He felt like the Feldmar staff were his family and he treated us as such—the good, the bad and the ugly. But I will say, I can’t ever recall anyone uttering a negative word about him to his face or behind his back.
One of Sol’s greatest qualities was that he was generous with both employees and customers. People would walk into the store and ask him if he could spare a little money and he would. If one of our staff members was in financial strain, he would help them out. He came from humble beginnings and gave back whenever he could.
Once Sol told me that he was proud of the dedication I had for my Jewish convictions and obligations. That was so important for me to hear, especially coming from him. It felt special and I will never forget it.
I feel sorry for some of the new Feldmar staff members who never got to meet him. There are a lot of good people in this world, and he was certainly one of them.
Which watch brands stand out to you?
Looking back, Seiko, Bulova and Citizen really put Feldmar on the map. We also used to be big into stopwatches. We would set up booths at car and horse racing events, and car and auto shows. That propelled us. At the time, we were one of the only ones in the country fixing stopwatches.
As we grew, we started carrying more of the mid-range timepieces. Harriett was a business woman and she brought sales reps into the store often to keep our selection fresh. Of course, we will never forget our history and will always carry low to mid-range products, but Sol and Scott really brought us to the next level. They built the company to where it is today – many rungs up the ladder from where we started.
If money were no object, my favorite brand would be Breguet. Another brand I like is Ulysse Nardin, both their mid-range and the crazy expensive watches. If I won the lottery, there are definitely 5-6 brands that I’d buy immediately!
What is your favorite part of your job?
The best part of my job is serving our customers and making them—or the recipient of their purchase if it’s a gift—genuinely happy. If I can put a smile on someone’s face that day, it means I did my job.
I also love dealing with people from all over the world. It’s so nice to experience different cultures and have meaningful conversations.
Describe Feldmar in three words.
Integrity, Loyalty, Perseverance.
Thank you, Freddy, and congratulations on this achievement! We are so proud to call you #FeldmarFamily.