Bobby Yampolsky is turning East Coast Jewelry into an East Coast Empire
By Stephanie Wilson
Photography by Reynaldo Alés
“[My father] always believed in me, so I always felt I had to prove myself to him.”
Bobby Yampolsky is all about the bling. It makes sense; he grew up in a family that made their way to the top selling all things that sparkle. Today, he has achieved a level of success that makes many a seasoned entrepreneur green with envy. Whether his bling takes the form of the jewels and watches adorning his person, or in his arsenal of Lamborghinis and Bentleys, rest assured, Bobby is perpetually decked out.
His home in the prestigious Boca Raton could be on MTV’s Cribs, thanks in large part to the garage that houses his ever-changing collection of fine automobiles. In fact, during our interview he all but insisted we give an MTV-style shout out to his car dealer, Michael Gordon at Fort Lauderdale Collection, from whom Bobby has purchased most of his rides.
What makes his tale intriguing is that not only is Bobby the proclaimed ‘King of Bling,’ he is also a youngster, barely scratching the surface of his third decade on this earth. In those thirty years, he has accomplished more than most men twice his age, even becoming the youngest storeowner on Palm Beach’s famed Worth Avenue when he was just the tender age of nineteen.
Today, Bobby, along with his father Michael, owns and operates multiple East Coast Jewelry locations in Southern Florida. The two are taking the once-small company (which literally began as a kiosk in the Pompano Square Mall a little over twenty years ago) and turning it into the standard by which even large jewelry companies should aspire.
Their success comes down to accessibility and service. “I work twenty-four hours a day,” says Bobby as he walks us through his home, casually pointing out the works of art that adorn his walls and line his driveways. “My customers know my number and they know how to reach me anytime.” As if on cue, his cell buzzes and he speaks to a client, putting them at ease about a large upcoming purchase. When he hangs up the phone, a sheepish grin comes onto his face and he apologizes for the interruption. We understand—time is money.
While we are speaking in clichés, Bobby knows that you have to spend money to make money. His stores are lavish showrooms where the jewels and watches are displayed like works of art in glass cases. They exude class and elegance, almost as much so as the baubles they are hawking to the upper crust of society. And hawk they do, as East Coast Jewelry, which celebrated their 20-year anniversary last year, is on track to surpass this year’s sales goals after a record-breaking 2006. “The luxury market is on track. It’s a straight-up peak right now,” Bobby exclaims, obviously elated about his family’s success. The Yampolsky’s came over to the United States from Kiev, Russia, when Bobby was only one year old. His mother and father had little more than each other when they arrived in New York, only a few measly dollars lining their pockets. Their rise to success is reminiscent of the typical American Dream, one that has the streets almost literally being paved with gold.
His father’s hard work and dedication to his craft has influenced Bobby immensely. “[My father] always believed in me, so I always felt I had to prove myself to him,” Bobby explains. Today, the dedicated and well-trained staff of forty works together like a family to help bolster the success of the burgeoning business. In fact, business has been so swift East Coast Jewelry now proudly employs a marketing department.
“Ideally,” he says with a shrug, “our customers come in because they have a passion for watches, and I specialize in putting together collections for people to pass down to their children one day.” As the exclusive authorized retailer in South Florida for a number of luxury watch brands, the high demand for haute timepieces keeps Bobby and his father on their toes. “Being so preoccupied at work, I don’t have much time for hobbies,” he says. Knowing that he dabbles in real estate, owning multiple properties in the US and abroad, and seeing his expansive car collection, it is hard to take him seriously, although these exclusive properties and fine cars represent more than a hobby; they represent a lifestyle.
It is a lifestyle that is constantly being upgraded. Bobby has taken something away from his frequent dealings with Gordon at the Collection. “He makes me feel like I want to make my customers feel,” Bobby says. “I’ve seen people ask him for a car, and they’ll be in another state, and he’ll have it to them within twenty-four hours.” East Coast Jewelry operates on the same level of service.
“Interesting story,” Bobby says. “[A customer] calls me out of the blue, having been referred by somebody. He says, ‘I am not a patient person, please email me what you have.’” Bobby hung up the phone and went to work, sending over images of some of the larger diamond rings East Coast Jewelry had available at that time. Later that same day, he was on a flight to Atlanta where the guy spent a cool $2 million for a pinky ring. “What happened is that I dropped everything for him and I showed up, and he was impressed.”
Surely it was the jewels that impressed him as well. East Coast Jewelry sells exquisite jewelry from some of the top names, like Leo Pizzo, DeGrisogono, and Mouawad alongside estate jewelry, and luxury and vintage watches. In fact, they have grown to be the largest luxury watch retailer in South Florida with aspirations of further growth, aspirations that are being fueled by partnerships with some of the largest names in luxury watches in honor of their 20th anniversary. East Coast Jewelry partnered with nine of their manufacturers to create and produce limited edition timepieces complete with the company’s name and signature colors of black and yellow. “Yellow is my favorite color when it comes to watches and cars,” Bobby laughs. “Audemars Piguet made a watch for us called the ‘Worth Avenue Royal Oak Offshore.’ Only one hundred pieces of this edition were made.” Ulysse Nardin, Corum, Graham, and others followed suit, creating spectacular pieces being sold at the East Coast locals in Palm Beach and Sunny Isles Beach.
“Our customers can come into the stores and try on the ultimate timepieces,” Bobby says. “This provides for a much more gratifying experience than ordering a piece from somewhere else. We have the pieces in stock, available for purchase, which immediately satisfies our customers luxury cravings.”
While the Sunny Isles Beach showroom continues to attract a consistently international clientele, Palm Beach has become a beacon for the luxury clients that pervade in that area. They portray the idea that their accessories are just as important as fashion, an idea that is catching on, thanks in large part to a constant celebrity interest in ‘bling.’
And East Coast Jewelry does cater to the celebrity clientele that calls South Florida home. Whether that is Jamie Foxx jetting up to East Coast Jewelry when he was in town filming Miami Vice, or Randy Johnson selecting a new timepiece or two from the extensive collection, East Coast Jewelry has quite the celebrity following. “We have a lot of athlete clientele,” says Bobby. “We’ve had some great ambassadors, even though there are no contracts on the table. They are just so pleased with the service they give me carte blanche to do what I want with their pictures and their names…. That is what our service is about: service and relationships. Without integrity in this business, we have nothing.”
The integrity overflows into other aspects of Bobby’s life as well, as he is rather involved in a number of philanthropies. “I get involved with charities that make sense,” Bobby explains. He manages to work his own personal tastes into his charitable work, such as private poker games for charity, or a watch auction with Arnold Schwarzenegger. In spring 2008, East Coast Jewelry will host their ‘Gems of Time Invitational,’ a golf classic and Texas hold ‘em tournament to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
As the company continues to grow, the rest of the world continues to catch on to what East Coast Jewelry’s loyal customers already know: East Coast Jewelry is more than just another jewelry store; it is a luxury experience rooted in family tradition. “[Our customers] believed in my father, and now they believe in me and in East Coast Jewelry,” says Bobby. “The outcome is a great company with great products.” With the vigor and enthusiasm that radiates from Bobby Yampolsky, the world can rest assured that this tradition will continue for generations to come.