Ken and Joanne Osborne, owners of Osborne Jewelers, like most jewelers, had a bumpy start with their retail jewelry store when it opened on November 1, 1990.
The enterprising couple decided to become retail jewelers when they were 25 years of age, had a two-year-old son and 10-day old baby girl, opened on the eve of the busiest shopping season of the year, and invested in the hope that Phoenix would be a good place to start their jewelry business.
And, Joanne was considering changing her college major from business administration to pre-med when Ken proposed buying the jewelry store. What could possibly go wrong?
As stress-filled as the early 1990s were, all the then young couple had to do was clear those initial small business hurdles in the beginning. As the family grew, so did their business. Joanne affectionately calls the lean early jewelry retail years the “mac and cheese and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches days.”
“Luckily, our four little ones enjoyed those meals,” says Joanne. There was little time to prepare evening meals back then. After a typical day in the business, Joanne and Ken would often pick up their children from day care, find a restaurant with kids’ specials, and then work on homework and business of the day while waiting for their meals to be served.
Joanne and Ken definitely rolled the dice on a career path they needed to take them to retirement. Turns out it was a safe bet, considering the couple’s skill sets were a match made in heaven for jewelry retail.
Ken had the opportunity to work in his older brother’s Alabama-based jewelry store as a teenager. He then decided to work in other jewelry stores, managed one for a short period, and then worked as a bench jeweler for a year. He also earned his credentials to become one of the youngest Graduate Gemologists in Arizona. Ken’s keen eye and an “engineering mind,” according to Joanne, allowed him to excel in repair work and gemology.
Joanne had a two-year degree in business administration. She worked for a couple of accounting firms and was an office manager. During college she juggled these jobs plus working at Winchell’s Donut House. “We both had our share of working with customers,” says Joanne.
Joanne is a creative thinker, but also possesses analytical skills. Since their doors opened, Joanne has leveraged her financial and business background to handle day-to-day operations. Her business acumen includes marketing and a key strength is multitasking, everything from open-to-buy spread-sheets and P&Ls to visual merchandising and interior decorating.
In six short years the successful couple opened a second location in Goodyear. Joanne and Ken split their time between the two stores. It worked well for four years. In 2000, however, the couple decided to close the Phoenix store. Industries of all shapes and sizes would ultimately take Goodyear, Arizona, from a small population of 13,000 (1990) to a bustling town of 90,000 people (most recent census data).
After a decade as retail jewelers, Ken and Joanne made some milestone decisions. The first was to stay in Goodyear and make it their home and place of business. The promise of incoming industry was coming to fruition. Aerospace and technology, healthcare, manufacturing and Luke Airforce Base brought a “very high quality of life,” according to Joanne.
“Topping it off, we have beautiful mountain backdrops, a baseball spring training facility, Phoenix International Raceway, a historic resort and golf galore,” says Joanne.
With the town of Goodyear giving so much to the couple, Joanne and Ken also decided to become more involved in the community. Ken eventually became president of the local Rotary Club and Joanne was Vice Mayor of Goodyear and is currently an Arizona Legislator.
Another game changer for Joanne and Ken was joining the Independent Jewelers Organization (IJO) in 1998. “I am very proud of being part of IJO,” says Joanne. “Our family’s summer vacations were always centered around the summer shows. We have seen the nation because of IJO. In our early years, it was our connection with IJO that helped us with marketing, establishing brands, and teaching us skills in many different areas. I would advise any new jewelry store to be part of the IJO family.”
Successes and blessings continued for the couple. During their 25th anniversary year in 2015, the couple decided to build a freestanding store. “No more rent,” says Joanne.
In the run up to their last milestone anniversary, the couple was investing in bench jeweler technology and tools of the trade to enhance the repairs and custom jewelry portion of their business. Joanne was also bringing in different lines of jewelry, from fashion to fine, plus watches, to expand the store’s product offerings. And, they had the staff to support it.
“Not too many jewelry stores – especially in a market this size – have the incredible talent of five jewelers, a horologist, a watch technician, a Graduate Gemologist, and another who has almost completed their GG,” says Joanne.
Celebrations for the store’s big 3-0 last November were dampened because of COVID. “We did host a Facebook live event where we told stories of the 30 years, introduced all the staff, gave a toast and special clues for people who were watching to receive a prize,” says Joanne.
Still basking in the glow of their own freestanding store, Joanne and Ken will have to wait until their next milestone anniversary in 2025 for in-store festivities. The couple is looking forward to many anniversaries to come, business as well as marital, as Goodyear continues to grow and prosper.
The big 5-0 is certainly within the realm of possibilities as Gen 2.0 is showing signs of interest in the family business. “We are excited to see our youngest son work and learn our business,” says Joanne. “He certainly has had his life surrounded by what happens with our store and has worked in the store for the past almost five years. You never know if any of the others may ever want to be a part [of the family jewelry store]. We have been very blessed with a great staff and many who have been with us for over a decade.”