Louise Eiseman, Dallas jewelry store matriarch, dies at 91

Marco B Divaio

Louise Eiseman, co-founder and chairman of Eiseman Jewels in NorthPark Center, died peacefully Monday evening from natural causes in her Preston Hollow home. The native Dallas community volunteer and consummate merchant was 91. She and her husband, Richard “Dick” Eiseman, who died from Parkinson’s disease in 1996, founded Richard D. […]

Louise Eiseman, co-founder and chairman of Eiseman Jewels in NorthPark Center, died peacefully Monday evening from natural causes in her Preston Hollow home.

The native Dallas community volunteer and consummate merchant was 91.

She and her husband, Richard “Dick” Eiseman, who died from Parkinson’s disease in 1996, founded Richard D. Eiseman Fine Jewels as a lease department inside the downtown Titche-Goettinger store in 1963. It had 10 four-foot-wide showcases of gems and a cash register that couldn’t handle a sale of more than $9,999.

The couple added a second store in the Titche’s (now Dillard’s) in NorthPark Center when the nation’s largest climate-controlled retail space opened two years later.

In 1990, they opened their first freestanding store, Eiseman Jewels, across from Neiman Marcus. A much larger Eiseman Jewels still occupies that coveted intersection of Neiman’s and NorthPark’s two luxury wings.

The spunky redhead often bragged that she was NorthPark’s last remaining original tenant because Neiman Marcus has changed hands numerous times. “We’ve been here since Ray and Patsy [Nasher] opened the doors,” she said in a 2014 interview celebrating the jewelry company’s 50th anniversary.

“Mom first and foremost thought of others before herself,” said Richard Eisenman Jr., president of Eiseman Jewels. “She didn’t do things for self-promotion. She was happy to do all the work behind the scenes. She was the brains behind the business and understood how important the community was and to share philanthropy with it.”

Her staff had business cards made for her that read “Queen Mum.”

Dick Eiseman worked for the Zale Corp. before he and Louise opened their store.

Don Zale, former chairman of Zale Corp., got to know the Eisemans when Dick was a Zale executive.

“Louise was a consummate businesswoman,” Zale said. “She always gave great support to the people in that store. She was there to make certain that customers were taken care of. She carried the flag for the Eiseman company, for sure.

“Young Richard is terrific, but you have to give his dad and Louise credit for setting the stage.”

The matriarch used to routinely swing by the store until a few years ago, when heart issues made her visits less frequent, Richard said. The pandemic put them to a complete halt.

“She was fine in December when she turned 91,” he said. “January came along and there was this rapid decline.”

In 2010, Eiseman Jewels was named the country’s top independent jeweler by National Jeweler magazine — selected from 22,800 single-store jewelers in the country — and was inducted into the trade magazine’s Retailer Hall of Fame.

She was among the last of Dallas’ once-abundant, Old Guard retailers who transformed Big D into a shopping magnet.

“Mom loved retail,” Richard said. “She loved the marketing side. She loved connecting people and she knew how to do it in a gracious way. People really liked her. And she had a wicked, fun sense of humor.”

She was the longest-tenured and oldest docent of the Dallas Museum of Art, he said. “She liked to give tours to elementary school kids because if she got something wrong, they wouldn’t know. One time she was showing them a work by a great master and one of them said to her, ‘Did you know him?’ ”

Alice Eiseman Adelkind, who lives in Toronto, said her mother was “efficient, effective and timely. She made things happen. You could depend on her to do them to the best of her personal ability. She always delivered.”

Born Louise Rose Freedman, she attended The Hockaday School and Highland Park High School in Dallas before earning a bachelor of fine arts degree from the University of Texas at Austin. After graduation, she was employed by WRR and WFAA radio stations in Dallas.

When she was active at the store, she kept a philanthropic folder that she went through every month to pick out eight to 10 donations for good causes.

“We think it’s very important for us to be a leader in the merchant side of the community,” she said in 2014. “Dallas has done so well because of its philanthropy. Everyone of us has benefited from it. It’s vital.”

She was known for her nose for society news — a practical thing when selling engagement rings — and for staying in tune with the times.

In the late 1980s, when Michael Irvin came to town sporting a huge diamond stud earring, his mother asked Richard whether the new Dallas Cowboys player had purchased the bauble from them.

He told her that they didn’t sell split pairs or earrings for men.

“She said, ‘You better get with it,’ ” he recalled. “We’ve sold plenty of them since then.”

Louise Eiseman is survived by her children, Alice Eiseman Adelkind and her husband, Alan Adelkind, of Toronto; Richard D. Eiseman Jr. and his wife, Elizabeth “Betsy” Reed Eiseman, of Dallas; and grandchildren Reed Eiseman Batesko and her husband, Tyler, of Hoboken, N.J., and Richard D. Eiseman III of New York.

The family said that due to COVID-19 concerns, the service will be delayed.

Louise Eiseman and her son Richard Eiseman at Eiseman Jewels in 2014.(Kye R. Lee / Staff Photographer)
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