Longtime industry family will carry on tradition, expand fine jewelry and timepiece collections
(AUSTIN, Tex.) - For 45 years, Russell “Rusty” Korman built a reputation as an Austin, TX leading independent jeweler on the bedrock values of honesty, integrity and generously contributing to the community. These values will live on at Russell Korman Fine Jewelry - but without the company’s eponymous founder following the recent sale of the business to jewelers Larry and Kat Stokes.
Rusty Korman and his brother and sister-in-law, Hank and Monica Korman, will retire in January, but the location will stay the same. The new name will be simplified to just KORMAN, with a full-scale, launch planned for early 2019.
Korman will be the first to tell you, when word got out that he was interested in selling, the new owners didn’t make the highest offer. What they did do was make the best one.
“As I got to know Larry and Kat, I just felt instinctively that they would continue to operate with the transparency and integrity that are so important to me and our customers,” Rusty Korman said.
Their family’s reputation also helped.
Larry Stokes grew up in the jewelry business. He has been in the industry for over 15 years and has extensive Swiss timepiece training and jewelry buying that includes travels to Switzerland, Israel and Hong Kong.
His mother, Susan Robinson, founded Susan Robinson Fine Jewelry in Tyler, Texas in 1984. Larry and later Kat eventually joined what was then a gift and jewelry business, steering the company away from gifts to focus exclusively on customer experience, fine jewelry and Swiss timepieces.
“We love Austin and are excited to be a part of this amazing community,” Kat Stokes said. “We strive to offer classic jewelry pieces but with a bit of Austin flare. Our customers are well traveled and they want to see and experience something different. The most rewarding part of what we do is getting to help celebrate life milestones with our clients. We hope to cater to all ages and offer the perfect token to commemorate any occasion.”
Many of the store’s long-time employees will remain as KORMAN expands its fine jewelry offerings to include a broader selection of unique international designers, diamonds and the finest Swiss timepieces.
“We will honor the KORMAN legacy by continuing to give back to the community. We will also bring fresh energy and offer customers a new experience when they walk in the door,” Larry Stokes said.
With four master jewelers and watchmakers onsite, KORMAN offers the best and most comprehensive in-house jewelry and watch repair in Central Texas. It’s a competitive advantage that the new owners plan to expand on next year.
“We are a full service jewelry boutique,” Larry Stokes said. “Customers have peace of mind when servicing their family’s heirlooms.”
This convenience along with personal service, custom design, reserved parking, and a beautiful 6,000-square foot gallery where customers can see and hold rare, exclusive goods, are key to competing with national chains and online retailers.
The store and merchandise have come a long way in the 45 years since Rusty Korman first entered the jewelry business. He began his career by selling beads in Austin in 1973 on “The Drag,” which refers to the section of Guadalupe Street that runs along the western edge of the University of Texas at Austin. He eventually opened a bead store called Russell’s, first at Dobie Mall and later at Highland Mall. He sold the business to a friend in 1979 and took a few years off before opening Russell Korman Jewelers, a hybrid jewelry retailer and wholesaler, on Congress Avenue in 1983.
Now 66 years old, Korman began considering retirement about the time that Larry and Kat Stokes began to seriously pursue their dream of owning a jewelry store in Austin and raising their three children in the best city in Texas. Introduced by mutual friends, including Austin-based investor G.H. “Kam” Kronenberg III, Korman got to know Kat and Larry Stokes and negotiated terms over 24 months before reaching a deal. Kronenberg is also a partner in the new ownership group.
“Most independent jewelers have gone by the wayside unless a family member will take it over,” Rusty Korman said. “KORMAN will be here for the next 30 years. I’m leaving my customers in good hands.”