2800 Cahaba Road
Mountain Brook, Ala.
“We were founded in 1836, which makes us 179 years old,” boasts Bromberg’s president Ricky Bromberg, the sixth generation of Brombergs to run the business. From its original location in Mobile, Ala., the jeweler spawned a second outpost in Birmingham in 1900. “My great-grandfather saw moving to Birmingham as an opportunity—it was a boomtown, a fast-growing city,” Bromberg says. The original Mobile location closed in 1915, while Birmingham added a second location in 1959. Today, the business is the only American Gem Society–member store in Birmingham, and its two stores are destinations for fine and custom jewelry, watches, and giftware. But don’t underestimate the role good fortune has played in the history of Bromberg’s. “Each generation had a son,” Bromberg says. “Because much of our history was before it was common to have women in the workplace, just the fact that there was a son to run the business and carry on the name, that was sheer luck.” Bromberg looks back on nearly two centuries of lessons learned.
“My first day was June 30, 1966. I was 6 years old.”
The business is a choice.
“We were never pressured to go into the business; we all did it because we wanted to. I have two brothers and one sister; my sister isn’t involved in the business. My brother is with our sister company, Underwood Jewelers in Jacksonville, Fla., which we bought in the 1970s. I always wanted to work for the company, from the youngest age. My first day of work was June 30, 1966. I was 6 years old at the time, and I have a photograph of my first paycheck from Bromberg’s. I was the elevator operator and I got paid 50 cents a day.”
Evolve with the times.
“We have always been a store that sold luxury goods, but that definition has changed over the years. Things would come and go that might be considered a luxury product. In the early 1900s, my great-grandfather befriended the founder of Kodak, and we were the first Kodak dealer in the South. That was a luxury good then, but by the 1960s, cameras weren’t luxury, so we got out. We’ve known how to ride the wave.”
“In addition to jewelry and watches, we do gift tabletop—that’s part of our DNA. Since we have a heritage here, we want to establish relationships at the earliest age possible. There are a lot of ways that happens. One is our bridal registry: When young couples get married, we have the opportunity to work with them not only on their wedding jewelry but also on things for their home. Gift tabletop brings traffic to the store.”
Appreciate your clients, and give back.
“We are lucky to have customers who have been coming here a long time. Most people who live here know we are well established. Both of our stores are destination locations. People are coming because they know our heritage. We also stay relevant in the community. We do a lot of promotions where we partner with charities, and we donate to virtually every charity that asks. We always give a gift of some type for auctions and raffles.”
Evaluate and reevaluate.
“We want to be relevant. You can’t rest on your laurels. We are proud of our heritage, but we can’t run a business on heritage. We are constantly evaluating our product mix; if something no longer fits the bill, you have to make changes. We are like every jewelry store in the world: We have a finite amount of case space. You have to decide where to get the biggest bang for your buck.”
Top: president Ricky Bromberg; inset: the Birmingham location at 218 N. 20th St., which opened in 1925 and lasted through the Great Depression
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