Jewel In The Crown
Stepping back from his respected jewellery business, model railway enthusiast and expert Michael Hyman heads for retirement after a glittering career
Michael Hyman, a well-respected member of Blackpool’s retail community and owner of one of the oldest jewellers in the region, has announced the closure of Leonard Dews. With over 140 years’ of history and heritage to celebrate, it is the end of a golden era for the store which has been renowned as a retailer of the world’s finest watches and exquisite jewellery.
When Leonard Dews was established in Blackpool in 1877, Queen Victoria was on the throne and Benjamin Disraeli was Prime Minister. Over 146 years later, led by owner Michael and his expert, knowledgeable team, the Leonard Dews name has become synonymous with superior quality and exemplary customer service.
Local historians may know that Leonard Dews’ iconic Church Street store predates Blackpool Tower and is widely known throughout the UK as having an enviable reputation for high-class diamonds.
In 1959 the business was bought by the current owners, another local jewellery family business, Hymans: “My father David Hyman was originally from Liverpool and was born in 1899. After the war he grew despondent with the deprivation in the area and moved along with his family to the Isle of Man, where he settled in 1923 and set up a small shop,” explains Michael, who in his spare time is a model railway enthusiast.
“Two years later, he got the opportunity to start another business in Blackpool. The family moved, arriving on a paddle steamer at the North Pier in 1924 and setting up a modest retail outlet in Feldmans Arcade – originally on a box topped with velvet, from which my father would sell watches. Trade was successful and my father was soon able to take a lease on 18 Church Street for £400 per year.
“With an innate flair for business, he opened a number of stores over the years. He bought Leonard Dews in 1959 and the business thrived. At its peak we had 11 successful jewellery stores including locations in Birmingham, Liverpool, Jersey, Manchester and the Isle of Man, trading under the names Hymans, Leonard Dews and Wilkins.”
Michael, who joined the family business 55 years ago to support his father, adds: “I grew up here in Blackpool and came into the business in 1968. I was required to learn my trade on the job, guided by my father’s expert hand,” recalls Michael.
“My father, who passed away in 1977, was hugely knowledgeable about diamonds and taught me everything I needed to know. He was a natural entrepreneur and had an innate understanding of what would sell. I was always fascinated by watches, so I went to Switzerland to understand how the finest quality watches were manufactured. This further fired my passion and watches are really what I have focused on throughout my career.”
When recession hit in the 1980s the business was pared back and transferred to the flagship Leonard Dews store in Blackpool. With a strong local reputation for high-end diamonds, Leonard Dews weathered the economic storm and subsequently, continued to flourish. In 2000 the store was relocated to its current corner location, into a building which had previously been a Hymans store.
The business capitalised on local knowledge, keen marketing, exceptional quality and superior service and went from strength to strength. Leonard Dews was expanded and refurbished, taking on several high-end watch brands, including Patek Philippe, TAG Heuer, Omega, Bremont and Chopard.
Leonard Dews launched its own exclusive bridal collections – the Signature Collection and the Hidden Diamond Collection, featuring engagement rings, wedding rings, eternity rings, pendants and earrings. Focused on quality and style, every diamond in these ranges has been hand-picked by a team of experts and manufactured from the finest materials.
In addition branded jewellery including Fope, Chopard, Gucci and Georg Jensen were added to the mix.
“In the last eight to 10 years, customers have been incredibly interested in our offering of luxury watches.
“We have continued to build the business and even throughout the lockdown, when we were able to trade, we found ourselves very busy. Customers were keen to shop locally and we went above and beyond with our service to ensure we could provide the Leonard Dews experience, despite the restrictions.”
After a long, successful and rich history, dating back almost 150 years, the family business is very close to Michael’s heart. Heading for retirement and with no one to take over the store, he needed to make a difficult decision about the future: “My team and I have worked incredibly hard to take Leonard Dews to where it is today. We have shared our dedication and passion with our customers, who have supported us over many years. During my career I have seen the highs and lows of jewellery retail and ultimately, I have made the emotional decision to hang up my loupe and call time on this much-loved family business.
“My first concern was for my staff and I have been supporting them as much as possible to find new roles. I am keen that they go on to positions, which will be right for their personal circumstances and their career.
“After 55 years in the business, I very much want to have the opportunity to say goodbye to customers, many whom I have known for years and have become friends. Generations of families have shopped with us and we have shared special occasions with them – engagements, marriages, birthdays, anniversaries and births. It has been an absolute privilege to be part of their lives at these special times and I am certain that many people will be sad to hear that Leonard Dews will be no more,” says Michael.
“I will be here throughout the closing down sale, to thank our customers for their unwavering support and valued custom over the years.”
The Leonard Dews closing down sale will commence at 10am on Saturday 3rd June. All jewellery will be discounted by 50 per cent including diamond rings and diamond jewellery, coloured stone pieces, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, pearls and silver items.
All branded jewellery and watches will be discounted by 25 per cent. All pieces will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis and the closing down sale will last until stock is sold.
No Patek Philippe watches, or associated products, will be available as part of the closing down sale.
Leonard Dews 18 Church Street, Blackpool FY1 1EW