America’s 10 Oldest Jewelers: Merkley Kendrick Jewelers

Merkley Kendrick Jewelers

Since 1832

138 Chenoweth Lane
Louisville, Ky.

Four families spanning nine generations have worked tirelessly since 1832 to make Merkley Kendrick Jewelers the operation that it is today. The Louisville, Ky.–based high-end guild store and Rolex dealer primarily sells its own handiwork, eschewing notable jewelry brands in favor of branding itself and turning out big-ticket heirlooms to reinforce its status as a serious jewelry player. The store shuttered briefly during the Great Depression, reopening later to carry on the family tradition of jewelry. Merkley Kendrick is known for a vast inventory of upscale wares like hand-fabricated platinum rings with trios of rare emeralds. President and owner Brian Merkley tells JCK what he’s learned over the years. 

I can’t grow complacent in what we do.”

Brian Merkley

Don’t underestimate the value of a long and authentic history.
“Our history equates to a level of trust that is important to clientele, especially in a world of a lot of misrepresentation. We are able to honestly and ethically make a good living doing business in the correct way, and we subscribe to the fact that people celebrate occasions with jewelry. We are not selling commodities.”

Change is good. (Really!)
“In this industry—I’ve been working in it for 20 years—a lot has changed. And change happens so quickly that it just becomes part of my world, but I think for a lot of people getting stuck in a comfort level can be difficult. Merkley Kendrick has been through world wars, a Depression, and recessions, and we’re still going strong. I have always cited those challenges as how we do things differently than the rest of the world.”

Having formal policies helps you grow.
“We’re making transitions, as a lot of smaller mom-and-pop stores have, to a more
organized and structured business in terms of policies and procedures—things that have to happen as you grow. For example, when I started we had a sales staff without a sales manager or sales goals. So we put together a corporate organization chart with job descriptions, and look carefully at numbers in our inventory turn levels and profit margins.”

Embracing social media is good for business.
“We have continued to innovate while understanding and appreciating our history and our heritage. I can’t grow complacent in what we do because we have been around as long as we have. We continuously have to improve to sustain the business and remain an innovator. With the advent of social media and digital platforms, we took a long time to see how it would all shake out and how it would play in the jewelry world. Knowing and embracing and learning those things have been good calls as we post information about pieces on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.”

Invest money in products and people.
“The year 2008 was a huge opportunity for somebody in my shoes to gain market share, and we stayed the course by investing money in inventory. That created some long-term benefits for us because others were not stocking inventory, and our having so many pieces made us more likely to sell them. But goals and planning are all for naught if you don’t have the right people working with you; we couldn’t do anything without the efforts of our staff.”

Top: Merkley Kendrick’s home in Louisville; inset: president and owner Brian Merkley

Next: Bromberg’s

More of America’s 10 Oldest Retailers:

Bixler’s Jewelers

Shreve, Crump & Low

Black, Starr & Frost


Randolph Jewelers

Shreve & Co.

Kuhn’s Jewelers

Saboe Jewelry

Nelson Coleman Jewelers

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