The Silver Queen and Belleair Coins, Gold & Diamonds Story:
How it all began in 1972:
It all began In 1972 when Master Sergeant Art Arbutine retired from the Air Force. He had collected British Crowns for 20 years while in the service and decided that he wanted to pursue the coin business full time. He opened a small 700 square foot store in Belleair Bluffs, Florida and named it Belleair Coins. He turned his once hobby into a full time profession. In the first years, he enlisted his wife Patricia Arbutine along with his three sons Greg, Chris and Jay into the business. He later hired his brother Gil Arbutine and nieces Beth Arbutine Race and Kathy Arbutine Edwards.
The little coin shop started to diversify over the years and branched off into jewelry, silverware, collectibles, watches and other areas of fine art. Art's wife Patricia Arbutine became especially interested in the estate sterling flatware and holloware and recognized that these items were worth far more than just the scrap out prices that the family had been previously selling them for. She decided to do a spin off company and thus The Silver Queen Inc. was born.
From 1978 to 1986:
Patricia began aggresively buying and selling sterling silver flatware and initially was just selling to other wholesalers but eventually started branching out by advertising nationally in "The Antique Trader" and other magazines. She established a firm retail and wholesale mail order business and customers started calling her and her right hand person Beth Arbutine Race to help assist them with matching their patterns and to find the pieces missing to their flatware services.
In 1983, a few years after the 1980 gold and silver rush created by the Hunt Brothers, the store needed to move out of its cramped quarters and so we purchased the property next door and built a 1,750 square foot store front.
Eventually the store would expand in the 1990's to around 5,750 square feet taking over the adjacent tenants next door in the strip plaza.
1987 to 2002
After graduating from The University of South Florida in 1987, the oldest son Greg Arbutine also caught the passion for silver and went to work full time for the two companies. Made the President and CEO of The Silver Queen Inc. in 1990, Greg made the business grow by leaps and bounds through his aggressive national marketing, internet and computerization skills, catalog designing ability, buying expertise, improvements in efficiencies, and excellence in customer service throughout the years. From 1987 to 2002 the store experienced expansive growth and eventually more room was needed.
Pictured: Savannah Sterling by Reed & Barton. In the 1990's The Siver Queen Inc. did a lot of made to order sterling patterns in bulk orders of 200 or more settings that were exclusive to us. We marketed: Savannah, Florentine Lace, Debussy, Lion, Lancaster and a few others.
Photo from 1992 pictured: Patricia Arbutine, Greg Arbutine, Beth Race, Janet Woodhouse, Alan Johnson, Pat Yaeger, Kathy Edwards
Pictured: Francis 1 Sterling Silver Tea and Coffee Set
In 1990 Greg Launched our first printed catalog. For almost 20 years the catalog was our main driving force for bringing in the sales. However, as the internet age of e-commerce and shopping became solidified the catalogs started to take a back seat to the internet sales. We stil produce a catalog today, but is is smaller and less frequently produced, currently only once per year for the holiday season.
Wholesale Books - We also used to print a wholesale catalog from 1990 to 2013 that we distributed periodically throughout the year. However, it to dropped off to the point that it was not worth printing anymore and we now work exclusively with our antique shop accounts, show dealers, jewelry stores, coin and pawn shops on-line with our wholesale prices inventory on a separate website. If you are dealer looking to buy wholesale from us (you must be a legitimate re-seller of silverware), please call 727-581-6827 and ask for our sales department to help you get set up or apply on-line at:
China and Crystal Department
In 1998, Greg decided to add fine china and crystal to our products mix. It seemed like every other customer calling the store asked if we carried tableware, so we figured why not? We added Waterford, Lenox and Royal Doulton initially and later on added many many more brands, see:
Our new building in year 2002
After 4 years of planning, CEO Greg Arbutine and his Partner Alan Johnson procured the land (an old AmSouth Bank building), developed the building plans, designed the showroom layout, personally financed the down-payment money, and re-located the businesses in year 2002 to its current location at 1350 West Bay Drive, Largo, FL 33770. It was especially gratifying because we had a failed attempt at another property in Belleair Bluffs that didn't work out. Greg drove by the bank property for sale in Largo one morning and said "Hey that for sale sign wasn't there yesterday." We immediately pounced on it and gleefully beat out the Doctor's Group who was also considering making an offer, but it was too late for them.
The move was a huge success overall for the businesses. This phenomenal location has 10 times more drive by traffic then where we were in Belleair Bluffs, and the building has become a local landmark with its bold dome design. Greg once referred to their design as the capitol of silverware. Many locals describe the building it as the "Taj" of Largo. Also, business wise, with the increased exposure and visibility of the building, the companies didn't need to do as much advertising and were able to save money over the long haul, which was a great thing economically.
To read more about our move, --- please see Article Published in The St. Pete Times:
In the new location we were also finally able to open our Silver Museum. Greg and Pat had set aside many gorgeous pieces of silver flatware and holloware over the years that they described as too nice to sell.
For more information please visit:
2003 to Present:
The Retail Jewelry Department blossomed in the new location growing from a former sales of $350,000 annually to a now $1,750,000 per year, after having added jewelry repair, appraisals, and much larger showroom and incrediible jewelry inventory. Manager and Cousin: Kathy Edwards Arbutine has also been a key player in the success of the jewelry department with her upbeat and happy attitude, expertise and extraordinary attention to customers.
Pictured: Jan, Nancy and Kathy
Greg also contributed greatly to the growth of the jewelry department starting in 2003, with the introduction of full color direct mail jewelry flyers that he produces inclusive of the photography, graphical layout and conceptualization. They are sent out 7 times a year mostly to our local customers and feature our sale events inclusive of Valentine's Day, Spring Sale Events, Christmas in August, our Annual Garage Sale, Thanksgiving it away sale, Black Friday, Christmas and more.
Belleair Coins, Gold and Diamonds
Under the direction of Greg's brothers: Chris and Jay Arbutine who are experts in buying and marketing, they grew the jewelry and gold buying operations in the new building at Belleair Coins, Gold and Diamonds from a previous annual sales of 4 million per year to a now staggering annual sales amount of between $30,000,000 - $50,000,0000 per year. The new building was huge factor in the increases and gave the business a lot more credibility in the community and also enabled a larger capacity for parking which was especially needed in the gold rush days of 2007 to 2013 when the metals prices sky-rocketed.
It also didn't hurt that in this same time period of the gold rush, Chris Arbutine became the Mayor of Belleair Bluffs, Florida which is only one mile from the store and with his 10,000 plus contacts and respected political clout, this really got the word of mouth out there about the businesses which is the kind of indirect advertising and promotion that money can't buy and is essential to almost any successful business model. Chris was also a genius at overseeing the production of our local quirky Television commercials that have proven to bring in the customers.
Ironically, The Silver Queen portion of the overall business which had done 7 million annually in the previous location now does only between 3-4 million per year in annual sales. We had projected to do 10-12 million, but with the advent of Ebay, increased on-line competition, and a continued down trend from formal dining these factors all weighed in heavily in the retrenchment. Plus, when the economy is down The Silver Queen side of the business, which is highly retail oriented, suffers greatly. Lastly, the spike in silver prices from 2003-2013 dramatically lowered the overall demand for sterling flatware.
Locally, however sales have increased and moving forward the business has become more emphatic on better serving The greater Tampa Bay area and local population by offering more gift brands like Swarovski, Baccarat, Waterford, Lladro, Versace and many other prestige manufacturers of fine gifts and jewelry.
Nationally, with the price of silver so high we have actually gravitated to carrying in stock a lot more high end items like Tiffany, Gorham Martele, Old English Georgian Pieces, Kirk Repousse holloware, Francis 1 Coffee Sets and so forth. We've never had a better selection of incredible holloware pieces in stock like we now have today.
Pictured Above the three brothers: Jay Arbutine (retired), Chris Arbutine, Greg Arbutine
The Present Day:
The good news is that the businesses combined are still going very strong under the management of the second generation co- owners and general business partners: brothers Greg and Chris Arbutine.
Their youngest brother Jay retired in October of year 2019. Currently, Belleair Coins, Gold and Diamonds and The Silver Queen Inc. have combined gross annual sales of between 30-50 million dollars per year, are still housed in a 14,500 square foot building, and still gainfully employ most of the Arbutine family and many closely trusted long term staff members. Original founders and first generation owners Art and Pat Arbutine are semi-retired but still come in part time and their love for the business is still burning strong to this day. There is also a third generation on the horizon which hopefully will continue the resounding success of these two incredible companies.
Update: On December 31st, 2022, after 50 years of being involved with the business, Greg Arbutine the oldest brother decided to retire permanently from The Silver Queen Inc. Greg had a good run and accomplished an awful lot and will be forever proud of all his achievements at The Silver Queen Inc. and Belleair Coins, Gold & Diamonds. He is now off to travel the world with his family and pursue his passions with art.
Chris Arbutine is now the sole owner of The Silver Queen Inc. He plans to run the business with the same extraordinary standards that have been the company's competitive edge for all those many decades.
Pictured Above: Pat and Art Arbutine
(Photo from a cruise ship they were recently
on, relaxed in semi-retirement)
Please come visit us today and learn more about our family owned business that has been trusted since 1972. We are your local friendly experts that you can trust.
About The Silver Queen:
Since 1972, The Silver Queen Inc. has specialized in sterling silverware. With over 12,000 patterns in stock and 165,000 pieces in inventory to choose from, we have one of the largest inventories of active and discontinued sterling patterns in the U.S. We carry both estate/pre-owned and factory fresh brand new silverware. Our estate silverware is professionally restored to “like new” condition with a 100% satisfaction guaranty. Most is obtained from estate collections and jewelry store buy-outs and sold at prices far below regular retail. We also carry factory fresh first quality silverware from the finest silversmiths.