This Spring I teamed up with Travel Alberta to shares the stories of amazing immigrant entrepreneurs and their businesses that you have got to check out! The second video of this series that I worked on with Chad Kruger Productions for Travel Alberta is all about:
I absolutely love this story.
For the Vietnamese, immigrant and women-owned family of Paris Jewellers, it all started with a dream and a dictionary.
It was only in recent years that I learned that Paris Jewellers, now one of the most well-known and respected names in the Canadian jewellery industry, was not only a family-run operation that started right here in Alberta, but was one started by an immigrant Vietnamese mother who didn’t know how to speak English when she began. Wow!
For this interview, I met with Chau Lui, one of the co-owners of Paris Jewellers—whose mother started the business back in 1987 (just two years after she arrived with Chau and her sister, from Vietnam).
“My mom had the opportunity to start training in a goldsmith store. She learned how to size and solder rings, then she had an opportunity to start one small store in St. Albert,” Chau tells me.
“When we opened that modest store, she still didn’t know how to speak English. She used a Vietnamese English dictionary to translate and communicate to customers. When customers would come in, she’d pull it out. That’s how the customer experience was in our very first store.”
Chau and her sister Trang grew up at Paris Jewellers. They’d do homework in the backroom of the store, grab dinner at the food court, and help write up SALE signs and jewelry tags.
“I remember one day I thought all repairs should be free,” Chau recalls, laughing.
“That didn’t go over very well.”
Today, Paris Jewellers has grown from that modest, 400-square-foot store in St. Albert, to 23 stores across four provinces, including a flagship location at West Edmonton Mall.
It’s an amazing success story—and not one without its challenges.
“One of the challenges for us being a woman in business, an Asian woman in business, we did not see a lot of people that looked like us,” Chau explains. “When you want to dream big, for us, that’s having a chain of retail jewelry stores, not everyone is going to believe in you . You get questioned on if you’re experienced enough, or know enough to open a business .”
“Having a language barrier was a very big challenge for my mom. As much as people embraced having an experience with someone who used a dictionary, not everyone did. That was a challenge.”
“We heard no a thousand times more than we ever heard a yes. There was a lot of people who said you’ll never do it, a lot of malls that said you aren’t good enough, your brands not big enough, and it was very discouraging, but as a family we regrouped. We bought a giant map. We put it up on the wall and we started putting stickers on places we could dream we would one day we could open a jewelry store. We called it our Map of Dreams. Now when we open a jewellery store, we change the colour on the map. It reminds us of our journey, challenges we faced and what we had to overcome to open the business.”
Theirs is truly such a touching story and journey!
Today Paris Jewellers has over 200 employees and 90% of them are women. They are truly a success story. You’ll even still find Chau and Trang’s mom at stores or the office.
They do online orders, they’re doing celebrity engagement rings, they do custom jewelry, they fix jewelry, you name it. And they really are a jewelry store for everyone.
“We genuinely do care about your experience, your milestone. We know that its an honour every time people choose us,” Chau says.
And for the Vietnamese readers / viewers who have now learned that Paris Jewellers is Vietnamese-owned, you’re correct in wondering if Paris Jewellers is named after Paris By Night—the pinnacle of Vietnamese entertainment!
And be sure to subscribe to Travel Alberta’s YouTube Channel for more video inspiration on ways to make the most of your adventures in Alberta.
Note: this post is NOT sponsored by Travel Alberta. I’m working with them as a contractor for video production but not for blog / social media (these are just things I’d share about anyway lol).
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