A family-owned business can be tricky to uphold. Having generations of family members with the same — or even similar — career interests is hard to come by, but for the Medawar family, jewelry seems to run in their blood, considering their now booming jewelry business dates back to 1920. It takes a strong woman to own her own business — that’s no secret — and Catrine Medawar, owner and president of Medawar Jewelers, is no exception.
Medawar attributes much of her success to her family, faith and upbringing. Growing up in Lebanon, her father was a minister and her mother an executive secretary.
“I don’t remember a time when we didn’t have company,” said Medawar. “My parents taught me about hospitality and love.”
After starting an Arabic church in Lebanon, her family relocated in the mid-70’s to the South Bay area of California, due to the Lebanese Civil War. Here she finished high school and attended California State University Dominguez Hills, attaining her bachelor’s degree in psychology.
She was just about to attain her master’s degree when her friend, Pierre Medawar, convinced her to move to Lansing, Mich. to attend Michigan State University (MSU).
“He was a friend of mine at the time, and I had told him that I wanted to pursue my PhD. but couldn’t find a school that I liked. He was telling me about MSU and I said to myself, ‘sure I’ll try it.’”
After moving to the Lansing area in 1985, she never ended up finishing her masters or pursuing her PhD. as planned, but instead, began working with Pierre at his jewelry store, where her passion and interest in jewelry blossomed. After marrying into the Medawar family and working at the stores for a number of years, her interest in jewelry became a passion. She took classes from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), conducted research and traveled the world to look at designs and trends so that she could better implement them into her stores.
“I have been all over the world,” Medawar said. “Vietnam, Paris, Italy … I wanted to learn as much as I could about jewelry so that I could bring the best of the best to my stores.”
Although all six of her jewelry business locations are thriving, what Medawar is most proud of, is her work at women’s prisons in Lebanon, where she brings supplies and services to women who are in need or are stuck in an unfortunate situation.
“I go there once or twice a year and bring them items they need. These women are treated wrongly, most of them aren’t deserving of being in a prison. So many of them need prescriptions and other necessities that they can’t get – it’s a third world country,” she explained.
Her involvement in the women’s prisons started 15 years ago, when her father began a relationship between his church and the women’s prisons. Medawar said that a few times, she and her sister have traveled to Lebanon to help the women, literally risking their lives to get them the supplies they need.
“We’ve been shot at before,” she said. “It’s a big part of my life, helping people. It’s one of my passions.”
Aside from helping people; friends, family and “future friends,” as she refers to strangers, Medawar enjoys traveling and scuba diving in her spare time.
“I love to travel and see new cultures and sights,” she said. “Although, one of my biggest fears is the water. In 2011, I decided I needed to face that fear and I went scuba diving in the Dominican Republic (Punta Cana). It is such a beautiful experience, I have literally cried underwater before. You feel so small.”
While the Medawar’s divorced in 2012, she said that she and her ex-husband of 27 years
still maintain a positive relationship.
“We continue to be best friends and business partners,” she said, noting that Medawar Jewelers is still very much a family affair, with the Medawar’s two adult children, Jon-Pierre and Christina co-owning the family’s six locations.
“Jon-Pierre is a master jeweler,” she explained. “He has been a jeweler since he was four years old, he would sit on his father’s lap and learn, he has always wanted to do this.” Medawar noted that she and Jon-Pierre recently partnered together to get their newest location in Brighton up and running.
“He and I work so well together,” she said. “It’s very awesome that I am able to run a business with my children.”
Christina Medawar, her daughter, co-owns the stores as well, mainly working at the Jackson and Portage locations.
“Christina received a degree from MSU in public relations,” Medawar said. “She loves people and is extremely creative. She is involved in community events and charities all around Michigan, all this aside from running her store
While Medawar is extremely knowledgeable in jewelry and jewelry making due to her own research and pursuit of higher education in the industry, she said that her formal training in psychology is something she uses every day.
“People come into the store and I talk with them, hear their stories, sometimes I pray with them,” said Medawar. “But that’s what I love about the service industry, I love to help people and develop relationships with them.”
Working in the jewelry industry for 31 years, Medawar said that she has now had the pleasure of working with multiple generations of customers, particularly for engagement rings and jewelry of that sort.
“It’s awesome to see the second generations of customers coming in, the fact that I know their parents and families is a great experience.”