Jewelers play up lomg-time ties to Norridge area
Norridge Jewelers co-owner David Kohler shows a customer a tray of white gold necklaces. Norridge Jewelers is a family-owned business that has been in the village for 36 years. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
8338 W. Lawrence Ave.,
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Thursday, 11 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Saturday, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Closed Sunday and Monday
Updated: August 13, 2012 6:11AM
NORRIDGE—Small business owners can’t control the economy, trends or much of anything that happens outside their store windows to ensure their survival.
But, they can regulate conditions inside of their business, and the owners of Norridge Jewelers, the Kohler family, have done that since the late 1930s.
The longevity is due to surrounding themselves with people they trust — mostly other family members — at both their Norridge shop and their downtown Chicago jewelry repair business, which is where the Kohler family business started.
Today, the Norridge store is run by brothers David and Rick Kohler.
“We had been in the business our entire lives, so it just sort of transferred to us,” David said.
In 1995, their father, Richard Sr., also known as Budd, handed over the reins of the business he started on Jeweler’s Row in the city with his brother Frank. Budd and Frank’s repair business was so successful, they began hand-crafting their own jewelry. It was then they discovered making their own pieces was less expensive than buying them from a manufacturer.
In 1976, Budd took the plunge and opened a jewelry retail store at Oketo and Irving Park in Norridge. A few years later, he moved it to its current location on Lawrence near Cumberland.
“Everybody is involved in some capacity,” David said, listing his sister Barb, his cousin Jim, three of Rick’s sons and three of his own sons as the majority of employees that make up the staff. “They all chip in, so it’s truly a family business.”
There are also three non-family members who work at Norridge Jewelers.
While that family synergy is important to keeping the business going, so is being on top of jewelry design trends.
Most of their pendants, necklaces, earrings, bracelets and especially their rings, most of which are designed by David and pieced together by brother Rick and cousin Jim, are subtle and elegant. Obnoxious and gaudy is not en vogue these days. It’s just too expensive with the price of gold being around $1,800 an ounce.
“You go with the basic, which is what the customer is looking for,” David said. “We have the capabilities of giving the customer whatever they want. But, with the price of gold and the price of diamonds being higher, designs are catering more to the tasteful style. Are they really big and flamboyant? No. Whatever the customer wants, we’ll definitely give them.”
He remembers when Norridge Jewelers first opened, white gold was big. Yellow gold became more popular in the 1980s as did “the bigger, the better.”
“Then white gold and platinum came back in the last 10 to 15 years,” David said.
And, he added, more people now are interested in custom jewelry than mass produced pieces.
Maintaining the repair shop in Chicago has proven to be a smart move.
“It’s important to be able to meet multiple areas in the business, which, when retail is slow, the repair end keeps the dollars flowing,” David said. “During the holiday times, that’s when the retail business picks up.”
But it all starts and ends with family.
“We work together, we play together, we fight together, we start all over again,” David said. “The biggest thing is the family trust. Through thick and thin, we stick together.”