At 13, Stephen Komara emigrated from Czechoslovakia to the United States. He wanted to work in Youngstown, Pa.’s then-famed steel mills, but injuries sustained in World War II forced him to choose another path: He studied watchmaking at the New Castle School of Trades and opened Komara Jewelers in October 1948 in Struthers, Ohio. Stephen’s sons Bob and Tom eventually entered the business. Today, Komara Jewelers’ Canfield and Howland locations serve Ohio’s northeastern Mahoning and Trumbull counties, and it’s Bob’s son Rob (who handles repairs and custom work) and daughter Brianna (who does appraisals and inventory management) who are ushering in the next generation.
Bob: At 6 or 7 years old, I’d help with cleaning the cases or taking out the trash. I came from a family of seven, 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.
Brianna: When I was 3 years old, I remember vacuuming the store. My specialty was the neglected corners. My least favorite job was working the “junk table” every Saturday when I was 8. Customers would pick something and I’d direct them inside to pay. At 12, I could just see over the display cases and was able to help customers. I pretended I was ringing them up.
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 the engraving.
Brianna: My father never once asked me to be in the business. I was studying human resources at Miami University in Ohio. Then one year I drove home for a visit and during the trip did a lot of thinking. I realized I loved being in the store. I knew the day-to-day drill. I never had a problem keeping myself busy. When I returned to school, I switched to a general business degree.
Rob: I quickly discovered I was on the wrong track with so much reading and taking tests at college. So my father suggested jewelry-repair classes at the GIA. I took to it easily; I’m good with my hands. When I told my dad I wanted to bring my jewelry-repair skills into the business, it was the first time as an adult that he was really proud of me—that I was headed in the right direction.
Bob: I told them because they’re the boss’ kids, they would get a certain amount of respect from the old-time employees. But like their paychecks, they would have to earn respect. Part of that is to work harder and better than the rest of the staff. They’ve done that.
WATCH AND LEARN
Rob: As a kid, I always watched my father in public. The way he carries himself is something to watch. 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 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 as young bridal customers.
Bob: My father told me, “You don’t have to make a lot of money, but you’ve got to make something.” This meant running a business that helped us and our staff maintain a comfortable lifestyle, but mainly giving customers quality jewelry at affordable prices. This is the advice I gave my kids—and they get it.