Daughters mourn ‘dynamic and kind’ businessman John McKinney
Trailblazing retailer John McKinney has died, leaving his celebrity jeweller daughter Margot deeply saddened.
Mr McKinney, whose name is synonymous with exquisite diamond rings and pearls after he grew his family's Toowoomba department store into a jewellery empire, passed away peacefully in his Hamilton home, in Brisbane's inner north, on August 15. He was 89.
"My father was a very dynamic retailer," said Ms McKinney, 60, whose own glittering creations are worn by identities including model Dita Von Teese, actor Rebecca Gibney and former politician Julie Bishop and sell for up to $3 million.
"You don't stay in business for 136 years unless you are dynamic because you have to adapt," she said.
"Dad was a master at recognising an opportunity and he said to me at an early age that success was also about taking that opportunity and making it happen.
"He was very wise, caring and kind, and that is shown by the fact our staff have been with us for decades."
In an interview with The Courier-Mail 10 years ago, Mr McKinney said he waited until 2004, the 120th anniversary of the opening of McKinney's, before closing it.
"I had a staff member, Miss (Dorothy) Gleeson, who had been there for 60 years," he said.
"When I told her, the tears started to run down her cheeks. It was time for her to retire anyway. She was 80."
Born in Toowoomba on October 3, 1930, John McKinney boarded at the prestigious The King's School in Sydney and spent a year working in Prouds jewellers before returning to join his father Kenneth in the business his Irish immigrant grandfather John founded in 1884.
In those post-war years, McKinney's sold toys, china, crystal, guns, sporting goods and jewellery.
But it was the young Mr McKinney who expanded the jewellery offering, and in the 1970s opened a store in Indooroopilly.
Seizing a national opportunity in 1988, he acquired Hardy Brothers from Christopher Skase after reading the soon-to-be-disgraced tycoon was "divesting himself of his investments".
Mr McKinney's wife Anne thought he was "crazy", he told The Courier-Mail in 2010, but one of their first sales was a million-dollar-plus pink diamond ring.
The couple's three children, Margot, Sally and Jane, worked with Hardy Brothers until the McKinneys sold it in 1997.
Right up until his death, Mr McKinney cut a refined and familiar figure in Brisbane's Emporium precinct in Fortitude Valley, where he opened a store in 2007.
Margot McKinney's glamorous namesake boutique is a few doors away.
"My father was inspiring to me and my sisters," said Ms McKinney, "but he wasn't the type of person who told you how to do something, we really followed by example.
"When we were growing up, there was a huge billboard in the carpark of our Toowoomba store and it said: 'If you don't know your jewellery, then know your jeweller', and that is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago."
A service to celebrate John McKinney's life will be held on Friday at St Augustine's Church, Hamilton.
Originally published as Jewellery magnate mourned by celeb daughter