On November 12, 2013, the Graze Speaker series welcomed David Lantz as a guest speaker. This was the second speaker the GRAZE group has promoted this fall. David spoke to the advantages of shopping locally, the resilience it adds to the community and how his business thrives even under the stress of a globalized economy.
David Lantz has been connected to MJ Harrington Jewelers since 1948, when his Aunt Phyllis and Uncle Mike Harrington bought the business. The business was known as Downing’s Jewelers at the time. For 65 years, MJ Harrington has developed the reputation of expertise and passion within their community. After being introduced, David started off by acknowledging the College’s Third Year project class by saying, “I think this is a terrific program Colby-Sawyer has created to connect the college and public”.
Over the years, he surrounded himself by talented and driven individuals. In his business he has strived to inspire the best in those he employs. He explained to the audience that when running a small business you must expect to have sleepless nights, devote long hours, and make many tough decisions. He worked an average of 100 hours during the first two years of owning the store and explained how, “The first vacation I took was known as my honeymoon…I worked until noon with my best man to make sure I left the store and then I got married at 2. I didn’t tell my wife until after the wedding what I had done.” As a local owner of a specialized business, he was constantly at the store checking up on things. “If you want to survive as a small business you need to work a lot. Every small business owner feels that attachment to their store, like a string puling them. The pull of the string always says, ‘I just need to be there!’”.
The hours were long and hard to endure, but David’s business was represented by his passion of helping and teaching others. As a result, his business has been successful and constantly works with the local community. He mentioned that there needs to be a constant interaction with the community and employees. “Every single person is critically important to your business” and as he explained, it doesn’t matter if it took 2 minutes to help a customer or 20 minutes”. He also explained, “I have the great satisfaction to write checks every 2 weeks to 12 employees.” He added that it may not seem like a lot of employees, but knowing he is helping good people support themselves and their families, brings him satisfaction.
“Being a business isn’t about squeezing the last buck out of your neighbor, it’s about supporting your neighbor” –David Lantz
Hearing his advice and insight into the local community was a breath of fresh air in a time where so many of us are busy and distracted. You noticed his love, sincerity, generosity, and genuine tone about the local community. As a business owner he had many sleepless nights, which he spent having to make decisions that would affect the lives of his employees. From sleepless nights to sitting teary eyed with his family when having to close the store located in New London in 1994, he was committed to the community.
David looks for core values in employees, which include honesty, integrity, compassion, and devotion to the community among many others. Working with individuals allowed David to realize what significant role he could take on within the community. Whether it was a community of 6,000 or 50,000, “we have the opportunity to spread the wealth,” he explained. We have the ability to offer a helping hand, to listen and to care for others. For many of us, we forget how actions such as volunteering, donating, and working together can truly help.
Overall, David Lantz demonstrated how he cares and values the local community and as this Transition Initiative moves forward it is important to acknowledge David’s accomplishments and values. People like David represent what makes this area such a unique place to live. A message to take away from this event is that David’s family business has adapted to the changing environment, but he has kept the same values that made this small business respectable, professional, and successful.
“If you find your passion, dive in, and what you do now in the next 10 minutes can affect you for the next 20 years”