By Adam Vlach
Photos by Rachel Lock Photography
When you are in the business of selling something that lasts forever, you need to find a way to make your company stand out, and that’s what a longtime diamond and jewelry business in Topeka believes it has nailed down.
For three generations, Briman’s Leading Jewelers has had an unyielding commitment to provide quality products.
Morris Briman started a business around 1910 in Topeka, which eventually became Briman’s Leading Jewelers in 1940.
“He had a luggage business,” Rob Briman said of his grandfather’s original business. “It was Briman’s Luggage. He was also in the pawn business in the early years.” After World War II, Rob Briman’s father, Dale, and Briman Latta’s father, Bernie, joined their father Morris in business, which is around the time when the company began selling jewelry in addition to luggage and other goods. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the business began weeding out the sales of other merchandise and started concentrating solely on fine jewelry.
Business was rough for Dale and Bernie Briman during the 1950s, and Morris Briman himself even went bankrupt during the Great Depression and was forced to restart his business.
Rob Briman and Debbie Briman Latta both joined as salespersons at their fathers’ company in 1979 and became the sole owners in 2008—just in time for the economic downturn. The company, which had seen expansion in 1988 with the opening of another store and as many as 18 employees during the early 2000s, found itself forced to make a decision to close the second location in West Ridge Mall and consolidate to a single store in 2008.
“We inherited our ownership of the company in really tough times and had to make some tough decisions to keep the company viable,” Rob Briman said. But the one thing that the co-owners believe has always given them an edge over competitors, namely chain stores, was the one thing they were unwilling to sacrifice during tough financial times: the quality of their products.
“One thing we never did is sell lower quality,” Briman Latta said. “Our grandfather, our fathers, and Rob and I have always stayed with quality, and that was one thing we were not going to compromise.”
That unyielding commitment to quality is more than just in the jewelry, however. It is also in the relationships that the company has established over the three generations that it has been in business.
“When Debbie and I joined the company, there were already two generations of people doing business with us, bringing their children in, and we are now doing business with fourth generation people that started with our grandfather all those years ago,” Rob Briman said. “The relationships that we have established have been the reward.”