Iowa City jewelry business passed down to fifth generation

M.C. Ginsberg: Objects of Art in Iowa City has been passed down from father to daughter. The family has shared their outlook for the future.

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Sam Knupp, News Reporter


Lizzie Ginsberg O’Neill is taking the helm at Iowa City’s M.C. Ginsberg: Objects of Art, making her the fifth consecutive generation of Ginsbergs to own a small business.

Her father, Mark Ginsberg, took over the Iowa City store from his dad in 1984 when it functioned as a pawn shop. Upon taking over, Mark turned the business into a jewelry store and began incorporating 3D printing into the business over time.

Mark said Lizzie’s best qualities as a businessperson are her creativity, independence, and patience.

“She’s not purely a retailer,” he said. “She’s an educator, she’s an engineer, she’s an art teacher, she’s an inventory manager, she’s a mother, and she’s a business owner.”

Lizzie said she didn’t always want to take over the family business. She worked as an intern at the store after getting her bachelor’s degree in 3D Design at the University of Iowa in 2011 and went on to be an art teacher for a few years at an elementary school.

Over time, the business moved further toward 3D design and art, prompting Lizzie to make her return.

“I realized that was my passion. And what better opportunity than to do it at my family store?” she said. “And now that I’m at the spot where I can take it over, I have complete control over doing what I love and what would be appealing to a lot of people.”

The COVID-19 pandemic made Mark and Lizzie the store’s lone employees.

The father-daughter duo said that, when they first started working together, they tended to butt heads. Lizzie said most of the disagreements came from how similar they are — the moment they started to listen to each other was the moment they started to click.

Mark said it was during that time that he realized Lizzie was fit to take over the business.

“One day, it was just him and I, and he’s like, ‘I’m comfortable walking away,’” Lizzie said.

Today Lizzie runs the business on her own with her newly hired employees, she said, as Mark enjoys winters in California.

On top of being a business owner, Lizzie is also a wife and a mother of two kids, including an eight-month-old who sometimes comes to work with her.

“It’s probably the hardest thing I will ever do, being a working mom with my kids at work with me, but also the most rewarding,” she said, “If I can do that, I can do anything. It’s given me more confidence, and just so much respect for all the other women who have gone down this path. For me, it’s amazing.”

Lizzie said that, now the store is in her hands, she wants to focus more on custom design and one-of-a-kind pieces for jewelry, medical prototyping, and unique artwork.

She also wants to continue her work as an educator by offering classes to elementary-aged kids at the store.

“I wanted to be able to be involved in that side of things and be able to give back something that’s so priceless,” Lizzie said.

Lizzie said taking over the store has been a learning process for her that she’s weathered by surrounding herself with good workers.

“I think we work so cohesively together,” she said. “I think we’re all learning a lot from each other, and it makes a really good group.”

Among the group is her cousin, Nancy Ginsberg, who has worked in the jewelry industry for 30 years.

Nancy said that, after years in the industry living outside of Iowa, now was the time to come home and work with Lizzie.

“She’s in her 30s. I’m in my 60s,” she said. “We look at things differently, but we have the same common goal. It’s important to us that our family business thrives.”

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