FEATURE FRIDAY – KARI STOOKEY
The generous and savvy businesswoman
Celebrating life-changing moments and knowing that the jewelry we create will be passed down from generation to generation is my favorite part about being in the jewelry industry. You could say that being an entrepreneur and jeweler runs deep in my veins. Although I come from a long line of influential entrepreneurs, my love for this industry was introduced to me by my mother. She managed Zales Jewelers. I was fourteen- years-old when I began working for Zales during the Christmas season. I was a temporary sales associate and gift wrapper. Our district manager was in the store my very first day and he watched me sell a Wittnauer watch for $795. It was my first sale. He offered me the chance to stay on as a part-time employee. Over the years, I grew to LOVE the profession and soaked up all of the sales training and product knowledge I could. The day I turned eighteen, Zales offered me a management position at their Salina, Kansas store. My mother managed the Topeka, Kansas store until 2000. Then she decided to branch out on her own.
I joined the family business a few years later. Our business grew pretty fast, and by the 5th year in business, we opened two additional locations. In June 2009, I had the opportunity to purchase the Emporia location from our family business as a separate entity. Kari’s Diamonds was born!
Kenny proposing to Kathy
The goals and values of my business were inspired by my great-grandfather. He was a Jewish immigrant that started out as a peddler and became known as a shrewd entrepreneur and most loved citizen in his community. He was a businessman who really cared about people, who helped others and went out of his way to make sure that he was giving back to the community. It is because of him that I feel a responsibility to make a difference in my community as well. We had the amazing opportunity to help the sweetest couple in our community. Kenny and Kathy had been in a relationship for many years, but were never able to get married due to finances. One day, Kenny was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, and was given less than a year to live. Kathy quit her job to give 24-hour care to the man she loved. His dying wish was to marry Kathy. Our store has a very unique addition. We have a bridal boutique side-by-side with our jewelry store. With this in mind, we were able donate the jewelry and apparel to help give them the wedding of their dreams. Kenny and Kathy picked out the rings and while in our store he got down on one knee and asked Kathy to be his wife. There wasn’t a dry eye the day he proposed, the day they were wed, or they day she buried her beloved. Their love made a huge impact on my staff and I that we’ll never forget.
My staff and I with Kathy and Kenny
I love being able to help someone find the perfect piece of jewelry or design a piece of jewelry that expresses an emotion or honors a memory. It is so exciting to see a customer’s reaction when they first see that everything they have been trying to express is brought to life, and is preserved in a timeless piece of jewelry. I’m very grateful to have an amazing sales staff, management team and custom jeweler. They are dedicated, professional, and passionate about providing an exceptional experience every time to every customer. This is what allows me to operate a thriving store while being able to honor the principles and values that my family adopted in business all of those years ago.