ZIONSVILLE — It's not every day you're greeted by a painting of Nipsey Hussle, Tupac Shakur, or Harriet Tubman when walking into a jewelry store, but Robert Goodman Jewelers in Zionsville is not your average jewelry store.
From the outside to the inside, Robert Goodman, a third-generation jeweler, and his wife and business partner, Rose-Marie, are vocal about their stance on several contentious matters that plague our country today. The drab brick exterior of their shop on the cobblestone Main Street of downtown Zionsville is adorned with signage for Black Lives Matter, Mom's Demand Action, a pride flag, and fliers for social justice-related events and groups.
“Our personal positions are integral to and integrated into our business. This is who we are. This isn’t a business model. It’s a human model. We aren’t doing this to increase our volume; we’re doing it because we think this is what’s right," Goodman said.
Historically, consumers wouldn't see business owners publicly taking a stance on something, much less a political one. Over the last decade or so, however, more and more corporations and small businesses alike are taking some sort of a stance on an issue. A lot of it has to do with social media, and consumers having a little more power in demanding answers from businesses. With the growth of social media, consumers demanding transparency have also grown.
It's a request for transparency that we haven't seen hit jewelry businesses quite like its hit other industries, such as food, hospitality, and clothing companies.
“The lack of fair and equal opportunities that we have seen historically in our industry is an abomination, and it’s something that we, as generational jewelers, should be embarrassed about,” Goodman said.
Goodman says the jewelry industry is not unlike every other institution in America that has been called out for its discriminatory past and inequality. And he's demanding that the industry not sit back and wait for the consumer demands, but be proactive. And he's taken lead.
"The industry, just like, I would say most other industries in the country, have not been fair to people of color," Goodman said. "Just like we see in the world at large in the United States, there's systemic racism. And we've recently, in the last handful of years, begun to speak out within the industry against that, and calling for more equality and more opportunities."
Goodman was born into a family that at one point owned 10 jewelry stores in Indiana. He was given a special opportunity 22 years ago to open the Zionsville store as the others closed, and his birthright advantage is not lost on him.
Goodman says he has always been vocal in Zionsville about where he stands on any issue. He's intentional about who he does business with and who he will tolerate in his store. For instance, the shop has been publically declared gun-free and carries jewelry by only sustainable designers.
It's in the last six years though Goodman has been able to find ways to take action and use his platform to provide equal opportunities and bring communities together.
As someone who values conversation — and has them frequently — Goodman reached out to community leaders in Indianapolis to ask for their opinion on a slew of ideas he had.
"That's how you make people understand and be tolerant and accepting," Goodman said.
The jeweler ultimately wanted to bring a variety of communities together right there in downtown Zionsville so people could share space, have productive conversations, and simply be around someone who is different than themselves in some way.
In the last few years, Goodman has hosted several public events, such as an Iftar, which is an evening meal Muslims have to end their daily Ramadan fast that includes a call to prayer. "Out, in front of the store, on the sidewalk, in public, they broke their fast here," Goodman said. "It was beautiful."
Goodman Jewelers has had public lighting of the Menorah during Hanukkah, as well.
They've also recently made it a point to partner with small and medium-size designers from around the world and instead of giving the industry standard of 6% of the take, they give the designers and miners 96% of the take. "So, you can do this and not just do it right in your store. It's also how you interact with the world," Goodman said.
More recently, Robert Goodman's has facilitated a Black jeweler's pop-up event, where the owners don't take any commission nor sell any of their own jewelry, closing their cases, and giving jewelry makers of color space.
"We want to continue doing these types of things — bringing people together to experience things that they wouldn't normally experience," Goodman said.
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Goodman says he uses his place of business as a space for civil conversations that can hopefully move our communities past divisiveness.
"It's just trying to make people come together and learn about one another and feel comfortable," Goodman said.
Robert Goodman's latest event is a month-long art exhibit inside their storefront at 106 N. Main St. with the theme of social justice, diversity, and inclusion. The store is hosting work by artists of all ages and is open to everyone.
It's a unique collaboration, some may think, of art and jewelry sharing space. It's an uncommon venue for an art exhibit, for instance, there is expensive jewelry around and glass everywhere — but the Goodman's say jewelry is art, and having paintings and photography and all other mediums of art sharing the same space with jewelry is a "natural, logical partnership."
The Goodmans hope that this art exhibit and the events and galleries they plan to continue hosting in the future will help bring about change and lead to a more equitable world.
“We hope that through this exhibit, we will make people think more about social justice, diversity, and inclusion and talk about solving the centuries-old issues. Solving these issues is the key to a thriving society,” Goodman said.
WRTV Digital Reporter Shakkira Harris can be reached at email@example.com. You can follow her on Twitter, @shakkirasays.