Bob Komara, storeowner
60; overseeing day-to-day operations
Brianna Komara, manager
29; appraisals and inventory management
Rob Komara, assistant manager
27; repair, custom work and management duties
A Little History
Stephen Komara opened Komara Jewelers in October 1948 in Struthers, OH, when he graduated from the Newcastle School of Trades after studying watchmaking. At 13, Stephen emigrated from Czechoslovakia to the US. As a young man, he wanted to work in Youngtown’s then famed steel mills, but injuries sustained in World War II forced him to choose another path. Stephen’s sons Bob and Tom eventually entered the family business and opened stores in neighboring areas. Over the years stores were added and then relocated. Today Komara’s Canfield and Howland locations best serve the state’s northeastern Mahoning and Trumbull counties with quality products, watch and jewelry repair, and exemplary customer service with Bob’s son Rob and daughter Brianna ushering in the next generation.
The Early Days
Bob: At six or seven years old I’d help with cleaning the cases and taking out the trash. I come from a family of seven kids, so everyone took their turn working in the store. Back then my father started a trophy engraving service, so that was my main job in my early teens. By my late teens I’d begun to develop a better rapport with customers and was waiting on 80 to 90 percent of them.
Brianna: When I was three years old, I remember vacuuming the store. My specialty was the neglected corners. My least favorite job in the family business was working the “junk table” every Saturday when I was eight. Customers would pick something from the table and I’d then direct them inside to pay for it. At 12, I could just see over the display cases and was able to help customers. At that age I pretended I was ringing up customers. In my alter teens when I worked in the store during high school, I was doing appraisal work and sales.
Rob: As a kid I worked more in the back of the store. Early on I only spoke with customers when I was cleaning counters. For the most part, I was “Mr. Trophy Boy” who did a lot of the engraving for the trophies. When we got a Hermes automated engraving machine, I was depressed. I went from doing hundreds of trophies to literally thousands.
Entering the Family Business
Bob: My father emigrated from Czechoslovakia to the US when he was 13. Like most European immigrants living here, he wanted to work in Youngstown’s steel mills, but the injuries he sustained in World War II forced him to choose another path. He had a natural skill with crafting things and using his hands, so he attended the Newcastle School of Trades and studied watchmaking. When he graduated in 1948, he opened our first store. As a kid, I shadowed my father in learning the family business, but there was never any pressure to take over. When I had my own kids and wondered what it would be like for them to enter the family business, my approach was simply laying out a career path in life that would allow them to earn a decent amount of money in life. When the kids did enter the business, I told them that because they’re the bosses’ kids, that they would get a certain amount of respect from the old-time employees. But like their paychecks, they would have to earn respect. And, part of doing that is to work harder and better than the rest of the staff. And they’ve done that. They’re confident, hard-working kids and I’m proud of them knowing the business will live to see another generation.
Rob: I’m a lot like my dad. I had a hard time focusing on college and quickly discovered I was on the wrong track with so much reading and taking tests. I’m good with my hands. And when I started to waver on sticking it out with college my father suggested jewelry repair classes at the GIA. I left college and went straight to Carlsbad, California. I took to jewelry repair easily. Many people asked me if I’d ever done it before. Many were surprised that it was my first time. I guess there are some natural gifts there. My dad has always been good with customers and my sister is a knowledgeable GG. When I told my dad I wanted to bring my jewelry repair skills in to the family business, it was the first time as an adult that he was really proud of me, that I was headed in the right direction.
Brianna: I never planned on going into the family business. I was attending college in Miami, Ohio. I was in a big city, studying Human Resources and everything about my future seemed pretty set. Then one year I drove home for a visit. During the long road trip I did a lot of thinking about the future. I realized I loved being in the store. I knew the day-to-day drill and never had a problem keeping myself busy. When I returned to school, I switched my major to a general business degree without telling my father. After that I was highly motivated to be in the family business. Sitting in class, I pictured myself working on marketing campaigns. My father never once asked me to be in the business. But here I am today working on marketing and many other things.
Inherited Management Style
Bob: I learned the business by the seat of my pants. I was too hyper to sit down and do bench work. I eventually took the GIA Diamond Grading Course and after that some correspondence course work. All that was helpful, but the most important thing I learned was to treat people right and caring for the customer. It’s important to always be ethical and do the right thing. We’re prone to making mistakes. Paying for that mistake may cost you money now but you’re actually investing in your reputation with your customers. In town people know we run a respectable business. My father told me, “you don’t have to make a lot of money, but you’ve go to make something.” To me this meant running a profitable business that helped us and our staff to maintain a comfortable lifestyle, but mainly to give customers quality jewelry at affordable prices. This is the advice I gave my kids and they get it. Again, I’m confident the family business is in good hands and that it’ll last. I’ve established guidelines for a profitable business. They understand this and that the core of our success is customer service. The store experience has to continue to be better to keep giving customers a reason to come back to our store.
Rob: One thing that has always been drilled into my head “treat people how you want to be treated.” Even if you break a diamond on a repair job, you have to be honest with the customer, tell them what happened and work with them to fix the problem. As a kid, I always watched my father in public. The way he carries himself is something to watch. He’s very charismatic, outgoing and personable. When I entered the business full-time, I realized my father could sell anything to anybody. He has a gift. I try to carry myself with that same level of confidence by engaging people and saying “hi.” I find myself channeling my father when I’m trying to make a good impression on people.
Brianna: A lot of stores promote that they offer the top designers or the hippest new jewelry. That’s not us. We carry some great lines and designers, but we still try to be a jeweler to customers of all ages. We’re just as happy to see my grandpa’s customers come into the store as we are young bridal customers. In looking back at our family business, I‘m grateful for the opportunities my grandfather gave us. Not just to make a living, but to be a respected member of this community and to have the chance to give something back to it. That’s what my grandpa wanted. During high school, I’d come to work at the store almost every day. I was shocked my father knew about 90 percent of the customers by name, knew their kids, their pets and so on. It was amazing to me. It’s that personal connection that makes a customer a friend. And, we have many friends here. For us, this isn’t just a business; it’s a lifestyle of building friendships and relationships with our customers.