CSQ&A: Thomas Blumenthal, GEARYS

Thomas Blumenthal, CEO and president of GEARYS, the oldest privately owned retail store in Beverly Hills, on business success, his favorite timepieces, and his focus on philanthropy

What’s the appeal of a family business in a corporate world?

Thomas Blumenthal I’m a hands-on kind of CEO. I come to work six days a week, and seven days a week during December. I know every employee who works here, and all of our top clients. I am involved in just about every aspect of the business, and I have a great team that helps me, from merchandising, marketing, finance, operations, and store level. I love what I do. In a corporate environment, most people have to worry about protecting themselves. For me, I have to make sure I’m protecting my company rather than myself.

How many stores do you have now, and what’s your view on expansion?

TB We have the flagship store on Beverly Drive, which opened its doors in 1930; we have the Rolex and Patek Philippe boutiques on Rodeo Drive, as well as two other Rolex boutiques, in Century City and Santa Monica. When I took leadership in 2003, we had about 50 employees; we now have 90. I’d say it’s a moderate amount of expansion—we aren’t in Dubai. Our stores are all local in LA within at the most a 30-minute drive. And that’s important to me.

Tell us about some of your own favorite timepieces. Do you have any in rotation?

TB When we opened the Patek Philippe boutique, the company made a one-of-a-kind watch for me: a World-Time, which includes the city of our flagship shop with the words “Bev Hills.” So that holds a special place for me. My go-to watch for everyday use is the Rolex Platinum Day-Date 40. I can read it without my glasses! I never purchase the more desirable watches for myself. Our clients deserve those.

GEARYS was just recognized by Los Angeles Business Journal as a top family-owned business in LA, and given the Icons of Beverly Hills Award in 2017. You were also honored by the Jewelers 24 Karat Club of Southern California with the Excellence in Service Award. What kind of pride comes along with awards?

TB It’s all about the stores and the 90 people who work for the company; it’s not about me personally. Of course there’s a lot of pride. Making sure that I do what I said I’m going to do. There is a reason why I think vendors like doing business with us. People always know where they stand with me and I’m extremely fair.

GEARYS has a significant philanthropic impact in LA. What motivates you?

TB We have given back millions over the years. I sit down every week and go through the requests for donations, and we get about 20 to 30 requests a week. Women’s issues motivate me—I’m all about equality for women. I’m against human trafficking and support anti-human-trafficking groups. And I’m personally involved with women’s education as chairman of the board for Mount Saint Mary’s University in Brentwood and Downtown LA. The undergraduate population is primarily women, and 98% of students are on full financial aid. I believe it’s giving them an opportunity to get ahead. We’ve also underwritten events for Visionary Women, led by [2018 CSQ LA Visionary] Angella Nazarian and the Honorable Lili Bosse, and will be underwriting one next year. Many of my senior executives are women; it’s important. I was sitting in a recent board retreat meeting, and I realized I was the only man at the table, and that made me extremely happy. I think it’s really telling and great; unfortunately it’s not always the case.