Ray Bleser Named Entrepreneur of the Year

Ray Bleser, owner of Northeastern Fine Jewelry, based in Schenectady, N.Y., has been named the 2008 Entrepreneur of the Year by the Chamber of Schenectady County.

Bleser was honored by the Chamber Oct. 21, for his success and achievement as an “innovative leader in a business with 100 employees or less who has contributed to the growth of Schenectady County.”

A graduate of the Albany College of Pharmacy, Bleser founded his flagship store on in Schenectady in 1985 before expanding to three additional locations: Albany, Manchester, Vt., and, most recently, a second store in Schenectady. It is the Capital Region’s largest, family-owned jewelry company. 

“Ray Bleser is a true visionary who understands that success in business and support for one’s community are mutually compatible objectives,” said Chamber of Schenectady County president Charles P. Steiner. “For nearly a quarter of a century, Ray Bleser has been doing well by his customers, his employees and his community and the beneficiaries of his work and goodwill have been the residents of Schenectady County.”

In February 2008, Bleser opened his fourth family-owned store, a boutique at 432 State Street, adjacent to Proctors. The enterprise was the result of a $750,000 investment by Northeastern Fine Jewelry, prompting cheers from development officials who cited the company for demonstrating support for local and county efforts to create a vibrant arts, entertainment and technology district in the heart of downtown Schenectady.

During the grand opening ceremony, Mayor Brian U. Stratton said, “I want to thank Ray and Valerie Bleser for their longtime investment in the City of Schenectady, for their vision and confidence in our resurging downtown, and for setting the example as one of the most successful business enterprises in the Capital Region.” 

Northeastern Fine Jewelry is widely acclaimed for its original and inviting neighborhood storefronts; its award-winning customer service and support; and its offering of premier jewelry brands, including Cartier, Breitling, Hearts on Fire, Lagos, Kwiat, Simon G, John Hardy, Roberto Coin, Mikimoto, and Lazare Kaplan.

The company has 33 full- and part-time employees, including 16 at its two Schenectady locations.

Bleser’s daughter, Valerie, is director of marketing for the company and his son-in-law, Gregg Kelly, manages the Albany store.

Bleser is also renowned for his charitable endeavors and community activities.

Northeastern Fine Jewelry is a long-time partner of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society/Upstate New York-Vermont Chapter through its annual sponsorship of the Taste of Compassion fundraiser in early February.

Northeastern Fine Jewelry recently announced its newest partnership with Living Resources, which provides services to more than 1,100 individuals challenged by mental retardation, cerebral palsy, autism, and head trauma. Northeastern Fine Jewelry will serve as the presenting sponsor of Living Resources’ 18th annual Culinary Cornucopia on Nov. 9.

In addition, the company is a major supporter of Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Capital Region, the Albany Police Athletic League, Siena Athletics, and the Tri-City ValleyCats.

Bleser is married to his wife and business associate, Valerie. They have a son, Richard, 26, and daughter, Valerie, 25. Bleser is an avid skier, sportsman, traveler, and dedicated fan of the Los Angeles Lakers.