Frank Damiani Jr. & Anna Damiani-Celi: For All That Glitters – Damiani Jewellers
Damiani Jewellers, a generational family-run business, is a genuine one-stop shop for diamond, watch and exquisite jewellery lovers.
“Forever” is a word that is synonymous with important times in our lives, moments when a true sense of commitment and loyalty to one another are celebrated. In fact, forever is the glue that solidifies promises and binds them throughout perpetuity. Damiani Jewellers, the symbol for these special occasions, understands the concept of forever because it has been delivering on that promise for over 60 years. Its stunning 5,000-square foot showroom is a veritable one-stop shop for the highest quality jewellery, finest timepieces, and luxury gifts that make special occasions and important milestones even more memorable.
Frank (Franco) Damiani, who looked more Irish than Italian with his vibrant red hair and hazel-green eyes, immigrated to Canada from Italy in 1953. After working on the railway in Alberta, Frank was tired of being out in the cold, so he moved to Toronto, where he met up with an old friend who was a watchmaker. Always the entrepreneur, Frank used his savings to open a small jewellery and watch repair shop and hired his friend. However, his friend returned to Italy within a month and Frank was left to manage the store on his own.
“Dad was a blacksmith and knew how to solder iron, but soldering gold was a whole different thing,” laughs the couple’s daughter, Anna Damiani-Celi. “One of his friends was a watchmaker, and dad, who had a mechanical mind, was a fast learner who could fix anything.”
After seven years in Canada, Frank, who was now a Canadian citizen, returned to Italy to court his childhood friend, Liliana (Edda). At 25 years old, Edda, a teacher who was happily surrounded by her family, was not particularly keen on immigrating to Canada, where she had neither family nor a command of the English language.
“Frank had to get back to his store in Toronto, so he gave me an ultimatum — either you marry me now or I’m leaving,” Edda says smiling.
The couple married and returned to Toronto, where with Edda’s help, Frank’s business started to flourish. With $7,000 in savings, the couple had to make a decision: either buy a house or buy a bigger store. Edda told Frank to buy the store because she hoped to make some money and return to Italy. But Edda persevered in her new life. She went to school and learned to speak English, while also completing Grade 13.
The first store opened on Eglinton Avenue West in 1957. The business quickly grew, so the couple moved to a larger 1,500-square-foot store, which boasted brand-new showcases to display their wares. Boosted by his innate charisma and work ethic (Frank often worked long hours in the store, then spent another several hours taking watches apart and fixing them), it wasn’t long before Frank made some solid contacts in the jewellery industry. In fact, Frank’s drive and passion so deeply impressed the owners of A & A Jewellers that they gave him two trays of jewellery on credit — a situation unheard of at that time.
The location of the second store was another plus for the couple’s business. Situated across the street from St. Thomas Aquinas Church, the Italian congregation recognized the Damiani store sign as being of Italian origin. “There were very few Italians in business at that time,” Edda says. “They would come into our store because they knew we could speak English and they would say, ‘Friend, I need a hair dryer; friend, I need an iron.’ It was more like a bazaar than a jewellery store.”
Eventually, the couple started a family, and with Edda at home, Frank hired Joe Balkovec, a friend with whom he played soccer, to work in the store. It was a relationship that would continue for the next 50 years.
The business expanded again in 1961 with the opening of the St. Clair Avenue West store, which Balkovec managed. This was followed by the opening of the Downsview store (on Keele Street) in the early 1970s. Once the kids went off to school, Edda returned to work at the Downsview store, working six days a week. In the beginning, Anna and her brother, Frank, no taller than the showcases, would spend their weekends at the store. “Even though I was little, I still wanted to serve customers,” Anna reminisces. “I used to have a little stepstool that I would climb up on, so I could talk to the people in the store.”
Fast forward to the teenage years, when Anna worked at the family’s Galleria Mall location on evenings and weekends. There she met Claudio, who was working in the store at the time. Things evolved, and within two years, Anna and Claudio were married in March 1984. Following in her parent’s footsteps, Anna, along with Claudio, opened up their own retail location (600 square feet) in Vaughan’s Market Lane in December 1984. “We did the same thing as my mom and dad did,” Anna says laughing. “Instead of buying a house, we used all of our savings to open the Market Lane store. We brought all the solid wood showcases up from the old St. Clair store to our new location. It was actually from this store that our current location was envisioned.”
“We Are Honoured To Be A Part Of [our Community’s] Most Cherished Moments” — Laura Damiani
Anna’s brother, Frank, is a co-owner and President of Damiani Jewellers. After completing a Bachelor of Economics degree at the University of Western, he joined the business and was instrumental in making the Jevlan Drive store in Woodbridge a reality. It was he who purchased the land in Woodbridge and built the plaza where Damiani Jewellers is now located. Frank continues to make the strategic decisions for the company, which includes the most recent renovation of the Jevlan store. His eldest daughter, Laura Damiani (Frank has three daughters with his wife, Angela) runs the day-to-day business at the store.
Customer service, which includes servicing everything they sell, is key to Damiani Jewellers’ customer relationships. So, too, are its massive selection and exclusive brands. “The families in our community have grown with us over the years, and we are honoured to be a part of their most cherished moments,” says Laura, the third generation to be involved in the family business. (Some of Damiani’s customers are also third-generation buyers.) “We are an Authorized Rolex Retailer, and some of the brands we carry include Amden, ArtCarved, Doves by Doron Paloma, Montblanc, Tag Heuer, Thomas Sabo and William Henry,” she says. “We also carry luxury Swiss timepieces, fine gold and diamond jewellery (bracelets, earrings, necklaces, fashion rings) and loose diamonds and engagement rings. We have thousands of pieces at any given time.”
Committed philanthropists, Damiani Jewellers supports the G. Magnotta Foundation for Vector-Borne Diseases, The Vitanova Foundation and the Mackenzie Health Foundation, among others. “Even when we didn’t have much, we always gave something,” Edda says.
And while diamonds are usually encapsulated by the four Cs, Anna says, “Damiani is different because we recognize a 5th ‘C’: cut, colour, clarity, carat and confidence in us as your jeweller. As a full-service, one-stop shop, my dad’s dreams [Frank died in 2007, at the age of 79] have been realized.”
“And it is my goal to continue on my grandfather’s legacy,” adds Laura.
15 Jevlan Dr., Unit B, Woodbridge, Ont.