XENIA — A longtime owner of Tiffany Jewelers in Xenia was so devoted to his work that he earned the name “Tick Tock.”
But Robert E. “Bob” Swigart was more than a watchmaker and hometown businessman. He was a veteran of the U.S. Navy, an integral part of his community, a loyal friend to so many, and a loving family man. Swigart died at the age of 91 Monday morning.
Swigart was born Dec. 10, 1928 in Beavercreek, the son of Charles Ray and Mary Cummings Swigart. When he was 14, he started working at Tiffany’s before and after school and in the summers, sweeping floors and running packages to the post office for then-owner George Tiffany. He continued to do odd jobs at the store until he graduated from Xenia Central High School in 1946. At the onset of the Korean War, he enlisted in the Navy, serving three-and-a-half years of sea duty in the Pacific and two tours in Korea.
Upon his return, Swigart attended watchmaking school at Bradley Poly-Tech in Peoria, Ill., and continued to work at the jewelry store. When Tiffany died in 1958, he left the business to Swigart and the Jenner family. Swigart became the sole owner in the early 1970s.
“He was very much of an entrepreneur,” Swigart’s daughter, Robin Kofler, said. “He was a self-made man. He was a numbers man, very meticulous. An excellent teacher. But very much of a gifted man.”
Just as he remained steadfast in his dedication to the store — Swigart never forgot where home was.
“He grew up in Xenia,” Kofler said. “One thing about my dad I always cherished was he never, ever forgot where he came from.”
Tiffany Jewelers — which first opened in 1879 and moved at least four times — saw history happen. After the 1974 Xenia tornado, the Swigarts picked up the pieces and remodeled the store. Then in 1981, a fire gutted the business, and the Swigarts rebuilt on Main Street.
Swigart was known in the community — through the Xenia Area Chamber of Commerce (XACC), the YMCA, Xenia Rotary Club, and the Greene County Unit of American Cancer Society.
“He was always helping the less fortunate,” Kofler said.
Neighbors looked to Swigart as the exemplar businessman.
He knew customers by name, enjoyed interacting with them, and had fun selling jewelry to them, Alan Liming, president and CEO of XACC, said. And what contributed to Tiffany’s longevity, he continued, was Swigart’s good business sense.
But part of running a business is also good customer service.
Swigart understood that.
Marcia Meyer O’Rourke, who grew up around the corner from the Swigarts and attended school with the children, recalled the “Tick Tock” nickname, and remembered Swigart’s friendliness as well.
“He always had a smile,” she said.
O’Rourke said she remembered shopping at Tiffany’s with her mother when she was a little girl. Though she was expected to be quiet and respectful, Swigart always gave her kind attention.
“He was a gem of a guy,” she said, adding that her family always purchased their jewelry at Tiffany’s and had it cleaned there.
“For me,” Liming said, “[Swigart] was always straight up and honest.”
He’d get a good deal for a good price — and he’d be greeted by name.
“He was just always a pleasant guy,” Liming said. “Everybody loved him. I never heard anything bad about Bob.”
Swigart served in his store for more than 75 years. He passed the tradition to his son, Tom, who also started there at 14, and took over the business when he retired in 1993.
But Bob Swigart’s love for his family transcended the walls of the jewelry store.
When Kofler thinks of her dad, she remembers his passions: He loved golf; that was his life. He was an excellent softball player and bowler. He liked the big bands — Glenn Miller — and he loved to dance.
“We had a very special bond, dad and daughter. I loved him dearly. I always held him to high esteem, as daughters do; he was my knight in shining armor,” Kofler said. “He was a wonderful, wonderful man; a wonderful, wonderful dad; a wonderful, wonderful friend to so many people. He loved my mother dearly. He loved his children more than life.”