Family Affair – Dracakis Jewellers

Jenny Berich meets the family behind one of Australia's most respected jewellery stores.
Established by Paul and Helen Dracakis in 1980, Sydney’s Dracakis Jewellers is a successful “family business” in the true sense of the word.
Many businesses claim to be “family businesses” but few can claim the genuine solidarity of Paul and Helen and their three sons in their commitment to each other and their business.
Humble beginnings
Paul emigrated to Australia from Greece in 1957 when he was just 17 looking for a better life. With no formal qualifications, life in the “land of opportunity” was not always easy but he knew from the beginning that his future lay in the jewellery industry.
“In Greece a friend had worked in a jewellery shop,” he recalls. “Sometimes when the boss wasn’t around he would let me do repairs and other small jobs which I really liked so I gradually developed a real feeling for jewellery and dreamed of running my own store one day.”
On his arrival in Sydney, Paul’s dream remained the same: “I saw that the quality of jewellery on sale in jewellery shops was quite low so I wanted to change that. My dream was to own my own jewellery store and sell nothing but the best. I didn’t want to be just another jeweller.”
However, 23 years passed before Paul had a chance to realise his dream.
“When I had my four beautiful children (Peter, Nicholas, Theodore and Fotina) I knew the time would come when these children would need a job but I didn’t want them to work for someone else. I wanted them to be in charge of their own destinies…”
Paul and Helen bought a jewellery store in Manly in 1979 although Paul is quick to admit that it wasn’t his dream store.
“It was a jewellery store like every other jewellery store but when you first start a business you start at the bottom as you don’t have much choice.”
In 1986  the couple bought their second shop in the Warringah Mall shopping centre in Brookvale. Helen continued to run the Manly store while Paul took on the running of the new store.
“The Warringah Mall store wasn’t my dream store either but it was better than the Manly store so we eventually sold the Manly store (in 1987) and bought this store in Mosman in 1992.
“The Mosman store was, and still is, my dream store,” he says.
Originally a National Australia Bank outlet, Paul and Helen gave the store a major makeover before opening for business.
“It took two years before Mosman Council gave us permission to convert the space into a jewellery store but when we did we spent a lot of money on the fit-out to make sure it was perfect.”
The store won the Shopfitting Association of Australia’s award for best shopfitting in 1995.
Today the store is still “perfect”. Featuring large display windows, solid cherrywood cabinets and fittings as well as rich blue carpet, the store stocks Cartier and Baume & Mercier watches, Hearts on Fire diamonds and an extensive collection of handmade gold and silver jewellery.
Paul says, that in retrospect, the family made only one mistake in the store’s design – “it’s almost too perfect”.
“A lot of people come in and say ‘I’ve never been here before because it looks too expensive but now I am glad I came’ because they find the prices are more competitive than they thought.”
The new generation
Although Paul’s goal was always for Dracakis Jewellers to be a family business it wasn’t easy to convince all his children to share the same dream.
“I always told my children ‘you’ve got to work for yourself, you can’t work for someone else’ but they have not always listened,” he says.
For example, Nicholas was initially reluctant to join the business as he wanted to pursue a running career.
“I probably had the least love of jewellery out of us brothers so I didn’t join the business straight after school like they did,” he says.
In his mid-twenties however Nicholas had a change of mind and joined the family business.
“I realised that in the business there is a certain guarantee that if you work hard there will be a reward at the end of the line as opposed to the uncertainty of a running career where a bout of the flu or a knee injury on the wrong day can ruin it all,” he recalls.
“As I was the last one to join the company I had to start at the bottom cleaning windows and vacuuming carpets.
“We only had the Warringah Mall store at the time so basically the whole family would get in the car together, go to work together and then go home together.
“It wasn’t easy but at the end of the day there was one big chief controlling all of us and we were all working towards the same goal.”
Today Nicholas, who runs the Warringah Mall store with Peter while Paul and Theodore manage the Mosman store, says he, like his father and brothers, has a “huge passion for jewellery and the whole industry”.
Although Paul has no formal jewellery qualifications, all three brothers have completed their diplomas of gemmology. In addition, Peter and Nicholas have completed diplomas in diamond technology and are registered valuers while Peter and Theodore are both qualified master jewellers, and Peter is also a diamond setter.
Paul and his sons meet at the Mosman store every Tuesday night.
“We have something to eat together and then we talk business,” says Paul.
They all agree that running the business as a family rather than as a sole-operator is one of the keys to Dracakis Jewellers success.
Nonetheless at 69-years of age, Paul is still very much the boss of the family business.
He has no immediate plans to retire from the business but is not overly concerned about future of the family business if he does.
“My three sons can run the business perfectly without me already,” he smiles.