CEO of Casandra Properties James Prendamano interviews the hugely successful local business owner of the preeminent Casale Jewelers and is also a community leader here on Staten Island, Cory Schifter. Casale Jewelers offers a beautiful and unique collection of watches, certified diamond engagement rings, and fine jewelry
The Family Business
Cory Schifter said his father drove a taxi all night, so we spent the days with him. He wanted to get into the jewelry business. So he sold his medallion for $25,000 dollars at the time – if you can believe it. He took a second mortgage on her home and he started Independent Jewelers on Staten Island, by Café Luna from 1986-2009. From what I remember – I was a terror as a kid, and I used to run up and down the whole store; it was a hundred-meter run. But at the same time, I remember the type of service my parents always gave to their customers. They made people feel as if they had been welcomed into a home. That’s what my parents did. And every customer was important – whether they were getting a $10 repair or buying an engagement ring. That’s how I do things today.
The Role of Fear . . .
“Fear can either hold you back or drive you forward, emphasizes Cory Schifter of Casale Jewelers,” relaying a story to James Prendamano about his nine-year-old son being afraid of a pitcher in little league. “Use it as a way to get yourself mad. Either you let the fear control you, or you control the fear,” Cory had said to his son – at the same time he tells the audience.
James Prendamano then comments on his own life. “Failure is such a critical part of growth – and I didn’t know that, says James Prendamano – for decades. I refused to believe it.”
“There’s a fine line between losing, embracing it, and it being okay -- and participation trophies. I was a prime example of someone who refused to acknowledge that he had lost or failed. “You have to learn how to lose. If you don’t learn to lose as a kid, you’re not learning to lose as an adult.”
“As also tell my son who plays sports,” says James, “when he complains about the referee being unfair – I don’t want to hear it. If you don’t like what you’re feeling right now, remember it, and let that motivate you. You either do something with it or you don’t.”
What it Means to Fail . . .
Failure actually helped me when I came into the jewelry business. I earned $25 my first day in the business with a watch repair. I earned $5 day on day two,” laughs Cory Schifter. “I was under the impression that I would come into the business and immediately be successful. But I had to learn.”
“Casale wasn’t always a household name,” who admittedly has a hard time accepting praise – as James noted his many accolades and achievements, also noting his thousands of followers on Instagram, Facebook, along with hundreds of stellar reviews on Google and elsewhere.
Cory Schifter then explains the first sales promotion he had ever run – it was a tear off in the Staten Island Advance – ‘Come into the store and get a free battery for your watch.’
Cory says he called his dad one day – nearly crying from the back of the shop, where he was hiding.“I don’t know what I’ve done. I made a mistake. This isn’t working.” The store was teeming with folks with Ziplock bags filled with watches, screaming at the staff that I didn’t put ‘one per customer’ on the coupon. Needless to say it was the worst experience I’ve ever had in my life – to the point where I ran in the back and hid. In the end, a valuable lesson was learned – there’s no quick way to turn your business around. Funny enough, says Cory, I had people coming in who had saved the coupon – months, even a year later. “I hadn’t put an expiration date on the coupon, either.”
Involvement in the Community . . .
I had gone to a mixer sponsored by the chamber of commerce when I first got into the business. I went around and handed out my business card to everyone in the room where I had just a couple left. And then I sat down at table with some food and a glass of one, looked around the room and realized I was alone. What did I do wrong? I was the guy who proposed to everyone in the room on the first date.
“Then I figured out – I had to build relationships first before people would do business with me. You have to build trust first before they want to do business with you,” says Cory.
From there I was introduced to people at the American Cancer Society; we started a business council. We did events. And I learned from these business leaders in the community. I asked a lot of questions.
After failed attempts at in-store promotion – starting with the ‘watch battery’ giveaway, Cory realized he had to do something differently.
“I’m not going to be a the store every day,” he recalls telling his father. “I’m going to go out into the community and meet people and start building relationships. I feel like that’s my calling. I feel like that’s what I want to do.
My dad, who was an investor in the business, was dead against it. He thought I should do promotions to bring people in. I felt I should go out and build relationships – and then people will do business with someone they trust. And here I am, 11 years later, grateful and blessed to be part of Staten Island community.
That’s Schifter’s gift – he goes out there ambitiously and gets involved with people creatively. In doing so, he has strengthened his business, as well as his community. Cory has raised a tremendous amount of money for numerous organization; it’s just endless how many different ways he’s given back.
Cory details what he loves about his busines. He sees kids that had run around the store when they were little – now coming in to buy engagement rings. That’s what it’s about. My father told me that would happen.
James Prendamano asks Cory Schifter – “Why does Staten Island have such a bad reputation? We are such a close-knit community. If you do the right thing, the community gives it back to you. When Superstorm Sandy hit, it was unbelieve to see how the community pulled together and helped each other out. That’s what Staten Island has to offer.”
“Family Fruit -- for one reason or another, they didn’t lose power during Superstorm Sandy,” says Cory. They were the only place that somehow managed to have power.” The National Guard was there and hadn’t eaten for days. And so many of us were there day and night, just feeding lines of people 24/7. With Superstorm Sandy, there was an unbelievable mobilization of the community – and it really spoke to who the people on Staten Island are,” says Cory Schifter. Unfortunately, every day in the media, with the news – you get 29 minutes of bad news and one feel-good story at the very end. They just pump negative stuff because good news doesn’t travel as quicky as bad news, so that’s what people see. They don’t see the positivity and the sense of community here like we do.”
On Changing Times . . .
Where are we nationally and locally – so politically divided, notes James Prendamano. We have spent over $14.1 Billion on this election cycle – one both sides -- a startling figure. Yet, we have families who can’t source food and live on the streets. We all should be compelled to help each other – we have people who live on the streets and we’re spending millions a year here playing mother nature, worried about vasectomies for the deer. We have to come together.
Cory emphasizes, “At the end of the day, what this virus did was open our eyes to the fact that we should love one another – and be present – and be there for one another more. God wants us to love each other, and I think that’s what’s been missing.”
Cory Schifter announces that he will be partnering with business leader John Maxwell, along with Chad and Danielle Reyes of IamEmpowering on a transformative project for Staten Island. They’ve done this transformation program in Guatemala, Costa Rica, Paraguay. John and his team – transform the community – bringing light and love into it. We’re going to find out from this survey that we send out exactly what the community needs. I think this is just the beginning for Staten Island. I think this is the starting ground, says Cory . . .