After the retirement of the second generation from the family manufacturing and wholesale jewelry company in Los Angeles, Gary Khodanian made a major move with his family to Alabama, settling in the city of Madison. In 1999, Gary K. as a third-generation jeweler established a retail store in a shopping center with a specialty in custom jewelry, and continues to be a family owned and operated full-service jewelry store.
In the fall of 2013 with the lease on their second location in Madison due to expire, the Gary K. family felt it was time to consolidate the business and operate out of only the original location. They spent a month together in the remodeled original store before Gary K. passed away. In an instant, the family business went from stability to uncertainty.
The family decided the best way to honor Gary K. was to “trust the Lord will help us continue the family jewelry business to provide for the customers Gary K. dearly loved,” says designer Mary-Jane Khodanian Smith, Gary Khodanian’s daughter. “He always taught our family to place customer satisfaction above profit margins, and being an honest person leads to a peaceful life.”
The Gary K. staff is a tight-knit group. Gary Khodanian (junior) manages the website and social media accounts while Mary-Jane leads the custom design. Even spouses of the Gary K. family not directly involved with the business assist when needed. “Sometimes with a family business, it is difficult to sort through different opinions in the matters of purchasing decisions or custom designs for inventory, but there is a sense of comfort to know everyone involved has the best interest of the store,” Mary-Jane says.
In 2015, Jewelers Mutual agent Judy Upton recommended that Mary-Jane submit an application for a scholarship from the 24 Karat Club Southeastern United States. Mary-Jane became the recipient of the Robert Foreman Memorial Scholarship, which was used toward a Diamonds and Diamond Grading diploma and a second Accredited Jewelry Professional diploma (first one earned in 2004), both earned through GIA.
“We’re extremely grateful for our customers,” Mary-Jane says. “For them to spend their hard-earned money on an item as valuable as jewelry purchased from us, we can never show enough appreciation. We love to hear and see the joy on their faces when they receive or select a special piece. We genuinely appreciate their referrals, including their strong recommendations to out-of-town family and friends to select us as their preferred jewelry store. It is difficult to describe in words the delight to experience a longtime customer’s child grow into an adult who now trusts us for their most important bridal jewelry. Any time a customer thanks us for a purchase or custom design, we always place the credit back to them. It is their ideal vision; all we do is guide them toward the best jewelry item to fit their vision.”
The majority of Gary K. referrals involve its custom design department, either bridal or the redesign of inherited, outdated or discarded jewelry. “We devote time to listen to customers’ needs and allow them freedom in creativity for the design, and then proceed to lay out the custom piece with hand-drawn images and three-dimensional renderings,” Mary-Jane says.
“We are most proud to educate customers on the necessary steps to maintain their jewelry. We thoroughly explain the consequences of exposing their precious jewelry to household and personal products, chlorine and damage from outdoor activities. We want them to preserve a beautiful piece that will remain intact to pass down through generations. Our motto is the more beautiful the jewelry, the greater the responsibility to maintain it.”
Testimonials on the store’s website confirm Gary K.’s customers appreciate the care and advice: “We love Gary K Jewelers! We purchased all of our wedding jewelry from them, and they have helped us take care of our rings ever since! They go out of their way to make sure our rings are always in perfect condition, whether that means cleaning them, checking for loose diamonds, or fixing smashed rings.”
Gary K. Jewelers offers a wide selection of bridal jewelry, as well as diamond, gold, and gemstone jewelry featured in rings, earrings, pendants and bracelets. The store also offers watches, pearls and sterling silver jewelry. Gary K. provides jewelry repairs including pearl re-string, watch repairs and jewelry engraving. Its current best sellers are stackable diamond bands and multi gold bracelets.
“We hold steadfast to the words in Jeremiah 29:11, ‘For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord…,’ ” Mary-Jane says. “Regardless if the business ends with the fourth generation or continues with the fifth generation, we appreciate each day we are able to provide service and develop meaningful relationships with customers.”
Gary K. Jewelers is a member of Alabama Jewelers Association, the Better Business Bureau and Jewelers Helping Jewelers.