At the early age of 21, Keith Leclerc left Massachusetts and moved to Clearwater. It was there he met his wife, Peggy, where he had three children, one boy and two daughters, and it was where he found his fascination with the business of gold, silver and, eventually, diamonds.
The Leclerc patriarch opened the first retail location of International Diamond Center, in Clearwater, in 1990.
Keith initially invested $600 into eight gold chains and now, IDC has grown to be one of the largest independent jewelers in the United States with 12 stores and revenues over $100 million.
While Keith is still, officially, chief executive officer and president of IDC, it appears that the father is preparing his son, and son in laws, to step in and continue growing the business. The succession plan is in full motion.
The next generation of leadership at IDC includes one Leclerc and two Leclercs “by marriage.” Together, Brian Leclerc, “BL,” Brian Stamey, “BS,” and Chad Masters, just Chad, are being groomed for a future of diamonds and gold.
THE BL STORY
Brian Leclerc, the middle child to Keith and Peggy, grew up around the family business but never with his sights set on making it his career. He played baseball at Northside Christian, in St. Petersburg, and that was his dream, to play professional baseball. He eventually ended up at a baseball camp at the University of Florida.
“In high school we had, I think, seven kids get drafted. So, I saw all these other kids getting opportunities and I was always the smallest [guy],” says Leclerc.
“I remember my dad traveling all over the country, stopping whatever he was doing with work, and always being there [for me]. Coming to every tournament, getting thrown out of the tournaments,” Leclerc recalls, laughing. “He’s always been a good father. He’s always been an amazing dad.”
Leclerc got drafted, out of high school, to play for the Baltimore Orioles but he decided to go to college, attending the University of Florida. He started, all four years, with the Gators.
Leclerc went on to play for the Chicago Cubs, for two years, until he suffered a concussion, ending his athletic career.
“I came back home, finished school and my dad gave me a lot of grace to let me see what I wanted to do [next],” Leclerc recalls.
At the time, IDC was doing buying events. Keith asked his son if he’d like to go on the road and help out the IDC team.
“I didn’t know anything [yet]. [My dad] says, ‘You’re a smart kid, you graduated from the University of Florida. You’ll be fine,’” Leclerc recalls. “I was very nervous because I’m one who likes to be prepared before I just jump into something. My dad’s a little bit more of a gunslinger, which I very much respect.”
From there, Leclerc attended Coin Grading School. When he first started at IDC, he was paid nothing. “That was the deal,” he says.
“If I was going to come work for him, I didn’t want anyone to label me as a silver spoon protege. I just didn’t want that. I didn’t want that hanging over me,” he says.
Leclerc admits he was a bit cocky, in the early days. He was only about 23 years old at the time.
“I was very arrogant because of my background being in sports and being extremely competitive. I would sit in the room and think I knew everything and get humbled time and time again,” Leclerc says. “Whether it was from my dad or from another vendor who would put me in my place. I feel like I grew up late, if I’m being completely honest, and it took me a while to finally get to where I was in a position to know that the person I was sitting under was one of the most revered people in the industry. The second that I understood that, I began to shut up, listen a lot more and watch a lot more.”
Leclerc paid close attention, as he learned the business. He would get up early in the morning to role-play showroom activity, with his wife, to practice selling and interacting with customers.
“I feel like that period of time really shaped me, and molded me, in a very unique way because my sister was in the business, on the retail side, and I would see her, with ease, just make things happen. And for me, it did not come easy. I was not that way. I was not born with that skill set. I had to work very hard at it to feel comfortable,” Leclerc says.
When his father allowed him the opportunity to purchase something without his oversight, or have a say in the matter, it was huge to him. It took him nearly a decade to earn that autonomy and trust.
“Now, I feel like we’re in a place where he’ll even take my input, and my advice, if we should, or shouldn’t, buy something, and why,” Leclerc says.
One of the areas where Leclerc helped IDC expand was into the luxury watch space.
“The watch customer is a completely different customer, believe it or not, than the jewelry buyer,” Leclerc explains. “It’s a totally different customer, which I didn’t even think I really understood, or had the foresight to get, at the time. I just had, I guess, a little bit of instinct on what to buy and what to pay.”
IDC now has about 700 to 800 timepieces in the stores.
THE BS STORY
Brian Stamey, vice president of marketing and operations, has been with IDC since 2010. He says he’s not big on titles, but Helen Barrott, executive director of business development, calls him “the operations guy.”
Stamey grew up in Winter Haven. He attended Berry College, in Rome, Georgia, and later transferred to the University of Central Florida, though he admits, he is a “die-hard Gator fan.”
While he may cheer for the Gators and not the Knights, he owes UCF one big thank you as it was in a church, in Orlando, where he met his wife, Ashley Leclerc, Keith’s eldest daughter, in 2000. Stamey was interning with the Orlando Magic at the time. When he graduated college, Keith offered him a job in the IDC family business. He politely declined the offer.
“I knew nothing about jewelry and, quite honestly, had my own dreams and aspirations,” says Stamey. “I told him thanks, but no thanks.”
Several times, over the duration of several years, Keith would ask Stamey to join the IDC family business. And every time, Stamey declined.
In the interim, Stamey stacked up experience in sales and advertising for a company called iPrint Digital.
In 2008, during a family trip to the Dominican Republic, Keith complained of having chest pains. After a visit to the hospital, the family learned that, upon returning to the U.S., Keith would have to undergo open heart surgery.
“As soon as he recovered from surgery, I got a phone call,” Stamey recalls. “I remember it vividly. [Keith] said, ‘I’ve asked you to come join the business, now I’m telling you. I’m not asking you; I’m telling you, come learn the business.’ Those were his exact words.”
The timing was right. Stamey was ready to step in and help his father-in-law and the family business.
“When he made that call, there was no doubt. There was no, ‘let me think about it.’ It was ‘all right,’ I’ll be there,’” Stamey says.
Stamey started at IDC in the coin-buying department. “That’s where I learned to cut my teeth in the business,” Stamey says. “I saw, very early on, that Keith’s strengths were in buying and selling and that the more I could move the minutia off of his plate, the more I felt like the business could grow.”
With a background in advertising, he would assist with organizing shows and the advertising behind promoting them.
“He continued to give me more responsibility, probably a spoonful at a time, and as I proved that I was up to the task, he’d give me something else,” Stamey says.
In 2014, Stamey saw an opportunity for IDC to rebrand. He and Ashley worked together along with an outside agency and created what they called “IDC 2.0.”
The mission was to market the company and its strongest points, “the best products, the best price and the best value,” points which, according to Stamey, were not being sold to the public well.
“Keith knows wholesale, which is how he built his business but he’s not a retailer by trade, he’s not a marketer by trade. He’s the guy who’s going to work seven days a week,” Stamey says. “It’s where he and I really aligned, from the start – blue collar work ethic. Roll up your sleeves and do whatever it takes to get the job done.”
THE CHAD STORY
Chad Masters comes from a small town called, Immokalee, Florida.
His family, he says, was probably one of the first families that settled near Saint Augustine. He grew up on a farm with jewelry being on of the furthest things from his mind.
He met his wife, Danielle Leclerc, at Southeastern University, in Lakeland, where he played baseball.
During the financial debacle of 2008 and 2009, Danielle returned to Tampa Bay to help with the family business.
“I didn’t even know what her parents did. We were so early in our dating,” Masters says.
In 2010, Danielle asked him if he wanted to come help her dad out while he was on the road. At the time, he knew, “A little bit about coins,” he recalls. “It was fun, it was different. I always tell people, my oldest child is 8 years old, I can teach her how to buy gold. But buying diamonds, buying watches and buying coins, that takes a lot more experience and knowledge of what is good in the market.”
When Masters graduated college, he had the brilliant idea to ask Keith for a job and his daughter’s hand in marriage, at the same time.
“He gave me the job but told me no to his daughter’s hand,” he recalls, laughing.
ON THE ROAD TO TODAY
Stamey, Leclerc and Masters were like a band of brothers, both literally and metaphorically, during their early years with IDC.
The three men traveled together while promoting the business. Until about 2011, they were hosting buying events with the public.
During this time, Leclerc was single, Masters was dating Danielle and Stamey was married and had two young children at home.
“There was no question about it, I would not still be married if I didn’t work for my wife’s father,” Stamey says with a laugh. With all the traveling he was doing, it would have been a challenge to convey the necessity of it to a person who didn’t understand. “Her knowing that I was helping her dad when he was going through that time, and me being on the road with two newborns, at that time, and her raising them…that would’ve never worked if she hadn’t seen that growing up. It wasn’t normal. But she’s special.” Today, the Stameys have four boys.
“We were thrown into the fire, since day one, and it was a hands-on experience,” Masters says.
As the three men came into their own roles at IDC, Stamey saw opportunities for the business to evolve.
It was then that Stamey began to refocus on the retail side of things.
“In late 2011, or 2012, we turned the advertising spigots back on, for the retail side, and realized what a tall mountain we had to climb,” Stamey says. “I felt like we were all over the place, in many different mediums, but not really dominating or standing out in any one [of them.]”
One of the strategies was to do a better job of telling the story of Keith, the founder of it all. Notoriously behind the scenes, Keith had no interest in being in the spotlight but Stamey felt it was time to tell Keith’s story as a way to help market the IDC brand. He was the brand.
“We put Keith on the radio, so he didn’t have to be front and center, and we started telling his stories. And that’s really when, I feel that, the business started to make that change because the public started hearing his story, which is authentic,” Stamey says.
Keith’s story is one of grit and hard work. A family man who had a vision to create a business and a better life for his family.
“Ashley could tell you, she remembers the time that they had somebody over for dinner and Keith, literally, broke her piggy bank to buy the hamburger meat for dinner. They had nothing and started with nothing. [Keith] is the American dream personified, for me. He’s my boss, he’s my father-in-law. He’s one of my closest mentors and probably one of my best friends,” Stamey says.
Meanwhile, Masters eventually did get dad’s approval and married Danielle. They now also have four children.
Leclerc is now married to Danae and she is pregnant with their fourth child. It’s the Leclerc streak, as they call it.
And, yes, there are 12 grandkids to Keith and Peggy. “12 stores for 12 kids,” Stamey says, with a laugh.
This leadership team, which have, quite literally, grown into their roles at IDC, together, and also broadened the Leclerc family, enjoy their work and enjoy doing it together.
“I love being part of something and building something,” Stamey says. “I love building a vision with him. I think that’s what I find most gratifying about my job is just the challenge of it, of building it, growing it and setting a number that’s so audacious you can only dream of getting there. And then you get there. All of a sudden, your aspirations change, and now the next audacious goal is even bigger and more challenging.”
Meeting the expectations of Keith, the father and the boss, can be a challenge, they admit.
“Keith kicks us in the butt when we don’t reach our potential,” Masters says. “It’s because he sees more potential.”
But the lessons they are taking with them, learning from one of the industry’s greats, are undeniable.
“My dad just attracts people to want to do business with him. He always taught me this premise that if you protect your customers, you’ll have them for life. Those were the two things I think that really resonated with me throughout my career,” Leclerc says.
“[Keith] has this aura about him. Everybody wants to either sell to Keith or buy from Keith,” Stamey says. “If the public only knew that we had one of the world’s foremost diamond buyers, right here, in little old Clearwater, Florida.”
Well, now they know. And with the next generation in place, the IDC story will keep being told. ♦
It is said that behind every great man, there is a great woman, and that is true for the matriarch of the Leclerc family, Peggy.
“My mom was, probably, just one of the most consistent human beings I’ve ever been around. She consistently has joy all the time, no matter the situation, no matter what’s going on,” says Brian Leclerc. “I feel like my sense of optimism has come from her. I feel like a lot of that is from just being around her and watching her navigate through life.”
With Keith working, sometimes, seven days a week, with three children at home, Peggy was a constant source of love and support.
“If you ask my dad about what has made him the most successful in business, the first thing he’s going to tell you is my mom,” Leclerc says. “She has always done whatever was needed to be done and never really asked questions, never really pushed back and just allowed him to do what he loves. She’s always been an amazing mom to me, and my sisters. She still does everything with joy.”
THE FIFTH C FOUNDATION
Since opening International Diamond Center’s doors, Keith’s ambitions have always gone far beyond the diamond business. “The Lord has blessed my family and our company,” he has said, “and we will always live by the motto, to whom much is given, much is expected.”
With the addition of Helen Barrott to the team, the charitable arm, the Fifth C Foundation, has been able focus and engage in a much more profound way to the communities it serves.
“She helps us stick to our core principles,” Stamey says. “It really does go back to the pillars, and the tenants, that we’ve set up for the foundation.”
Some of the causes that are a focus for the foundation include charities that help children and veterans, and organizations that fight human trafficking.
Since its inception, the Fifth C Foundation has contributed more than $1 million in the form of checks and donated items used for fundraising events, including live auctions and raffles.
Specifically, the Fifth C Foundation has supported organizations like Operating Healing Forces, Academy Prep Centers for Education, the Boys & Girls Clubs, Children’s Dream Fund, PARC and more.