For some reason the thought of working for the family business long-term never seemed right to Lisa Malbranck until she was far along a different path.
“I’ve grown up around jewelry forever,” says the partner at Diamond Gallery, whose family history in jewelry spans six decades. “I didn’t think that this was for me.”
It was during a field placement for her recreation management studies in beautiful southern France, however, that she began reflecting on how much she enjoyed working alongside her parents at their Corydon Avenue shop.
Upon returning, “I started doing more design work with my father,” she says.
Once she realized she was heading in the right direction, she dove headfirst into the industry to become a Gemological Institute of America (GIA)-certified gemmologist.
In the incredibly niche field, there is one school considered to be the authority on gems worldwide, GIA, also her father’s alma mater.
She underwent a “massively intense,” condensed program, which submerged her into the world of precious gems for six months in California.
“It was very fun for a prairie kid to live on the ocean for six months,” she reflects.
Completion of the program required a grade of 100 per cent on a grueling final exam, which included identifying the attributes of any stones presented. “You get five times (to pass the exam) and I got it on the first try,” remembers Lisa. “That was probably the most fun call to make to my dad.”
Jewelry runs deep in the Malbranck family – Lisa’s grandfather, Al Malbranck, opened a jewelry store on Marion Street in 1951, called Al’s Jewellers. After apprenticing under his father’s tutelage and managing the store for several years, Allan Malbranck and wife Anita set out to open their own shop, the Diamond Gallery, in 1992.
Diamond Gallery is known for its high standards of quality – “We were the first jeweller in Winnipeg to say our diamonds are conflict-free,” says Lisa. Their professional accreditation is also a rare find among jewellers as it isn’t required to practice in Canada. It lends itself well to their house brand and custom designs, which use strictly gold and platinum – materials that stand the test of time, or last the proverbial forever. “All jewelry’s purchased for some sort of emotional reason,” observes Lisa. “They end up being something that’s forever.”
Because of this, the Malbranck family is often privy to momentous occasions in their clientele’s lives, like marriages, repurposing a special heirloom, etc. Not too long ago, Lisa shared a big moment with her clients when she announced the birth of her son on social media and in their company newsletter. “It was amazing the response we got,” says Lisa, noticeably moved while recalling the flood of congratulatory messages. “Winnipeg’s a community I’m really proud of.”
The Malbrancks have established strong connections in the community over the years, and have special ties to the Francophone community, in particular. Just last year, Lisa won the Young Entrepreneur of the Year award for the St. Boniface Francophone Chamber of Commerce. She and her mother were also honoured by the Women Business Owners of Manitoba last year.
The shop itself is never short on accolades; it won the most recent Canadian Independent Jewellery Retailer of the Year award from Canadian Jewellery Magazine. “What we offer is a really boutique customer experience, tailored to fit whatever the person has in mind,” explains Lisa – down to the price range, materials, and lifestyle the piece needs to fit into.
Even though the shop is regularly celebrated, the popularity of online shopping does impact these types of jewellers. Lisa takes a proactive approach by partaking in and being a vocal proponent of “shop local” campaigns, and the business gives back plentifully to the community that supports it. “The people that choose to work with us are more mindful of supporting a local business, supporting the local economy,” says Lisa.
In turn, the Malbrancks support many charity events year-round, and choose a local youth-focused charity as the beneficiary for a fundraiser each Christmas. This holiday season, the Diamond Gallery Giving Tree will benefit the West End Cultural Centre’s Tune In Music Mentorship program, which offers free drop-in music instruction to youth between the ages of 12 and 19. For every donation of $15 or more during the month of December, Diamond Gallery clients can pick a small white box from the Giving Tree at the shop, containing a gift which ranges in value from $10 to $200. The Diamond Gallery will also match all donations from Giving Tree participants.
To participate in the Giving Tree fundraiser, visit the Diamond Gallery at 1-1735 Corydon Ave.