Life With Father

“I knew early on I didn’t want to be known as ‘John’s son,’?” says Richard Westphal. A tall order, considering he was going into the family business and even studying watchmaking at college, like Navy man–turned–jeweler John. And when Richard opened R. Westphal Jewelers in 1977, he may not have known everyone in town like his dad did, but he grew his business his own way, “doing speeches on geology, crystal formation, whatever I could,” says Richard. “Years later, people still remember when I visited their school and cracked open a geode, millions of years old.” Now his daughter, Katie, is at Westphal’s. She’s a jeweler, a gemologist, and, well, an all-around forward-thinker: “I decided last year it was time to get rid of the fishing-tackle box we used as a cash register,” she says. “We replaced it with a computer cash register that’s part of a POS system. Now each salesperson has their own computer.” We bet no one in Hutchinson thinks of her as “Richard’s daughter.”

The First Cut Is The Deepest

Richard: I became more excited about working in my father’s store after I finished jewelry school. In the years I worked for my father, I did all the bench work for his store and other jewelers in the area. My father’s store was the place for other owners to send repairs and custom work. My love of the bench has never left me. When I opened my store at 26, I spent a lot of time at the bench and still do. When Katie learned bench work, it relieved me of working long days. Now that I have some time, I tinker with watch repairs as a hobby.

Katie: I’ll never forget my first day on the job. My father said: “If you’re not bleeding, you’re not working hard enough.” I later found out he was joking, but at the time I took him at his word. As luck would have it, on my first day I was using a saw to cut a ring shank for resizing. The blade jammed and my finger got caught, resulting in a cut that bled badly. Admittedly, I’m a little accident-prone. Live and learn!

Minding the Store

Richard: In my role as the leader of the family business, I’m the go-to guy for just about everything. I enjoy bench work a lot and spend a majority of my time in the shop and waiting on customers. But, like all store owners, I can’t concentrate on the things I like to do and ignore the rest. Together, Katie and I are taking the shop to the next level by bringing on new technology. Katie continues to excel in her bench work and she’s making her own designs, earning some awards. While she continues to develop these skills, she’s also taking on more management roles. 

Katie: Recently I’ve opened up to doing more custom work. I’ve been getting away from the old methods to using the latest laser welding and CAD/CAM technologies. As my husband, Geoff, works with me in taking over the family business, we’re making more of the management decisions, such as being more involved and interactive on social media websites, changing store displays, and doing interior-design work.

Words of Wisdom

Richard: My father’s advice was to be honest in order to build integrity and trust. He also stressed the importance of treating sales reps fairly and with courtesy. When I left his business in Illinois, some of the sales reps from that market—who had no representation in my market 600 miles away in Kansas—helped me get started by providing product and extended payment terms.

Katie: My father taught me that this business is about trust. If the customers trust us, we can trust them. We earn that trust every day.