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MY STORY

A FAMILY TRADITION

Woven through the glittering beauty of diamonds and gemstones at Kari’s Diamonds is a family history of service and quality in the jewelry business that goes back more than 150 years. Kari Stookey, owner of the specialty jewelry store, as well as Kari’s Bridal, has been in the jewelry business since she was 14 years old. Her parents own a jewelry store in Topeka, but the family’s business acumen reaches back to the 1800s when her great-great-grandfather, Isaac Hirsh, began working as a peddler in Chicago, selling goods from the back of a wagon. Isaac eventually opened several stores in Missouri. A Livingston County history account said of him, “Mr. Hirsch not only has an extensive acquaintance in this county, but doubtless is better known personally throughout North Missouri than any man in it. He is the possessor of large means, a careful and painstaking buyer, and alive to every detail of business life, driving his own business rather than let it push him.” The stories about her great-great-grandfather inspire Kari to bring the same attitude to her business that he did almost a century ago. “He was a businessman who really cared about people, he was helpful and went out of his way to make sure that he was giving back to the community,” she said. Her great-grandparents, too, were entrepreneurs and owned a Chicago jewelry store for years. Being raised around successful entrepreneurs allowed Kari to understand what it takes to run a business that meets customer needs by offering outstanding service. It’s not just about beautiful jewelry – although that is, of course, a critical component of her work. It’s understanding that she is selling more than rings, necklaces or earrings. “I love the fact that we’re celebrating moments in people’s lives that reflect the love and events that are life-changing,” she said. “The jewelry we make will be passed down and given to children and then their children’s children. It’s an honor to be part of someone’s family history.” The skills that Kari and her staff bring to the jewelry business allow those special family pieces to be one of a kind, and it’s challenging and exciting to bring to life a design that has lived in a customer’s imagination. “We have state-of-the-art equipment, including a Computer-Aided Design program called CounterSketch Studio, that brings designs to life in 3D on a video screen,” Kari said. “We can actually put the ring on a hand that’s the actual size of the customer’s hand so he or she can see what it’s going to look like. I love the creativity.” The store can even offer the option of creating a prototype of the piece that, for a small fee, will allow customers to see exactly what the piece will look like before finalizing the design. “If you can think of it, we can create it,” Kari said. “We can tweak it and change it. It allows the customer to become the designer, which is really cool.” Being able to customize jewelry is a trend in her industry, Kari added because people want to create something that no one else has. It’s where the business motto – “Our difference is you” – was born. “There needs to be a difference in what you do, in the end product, so we bring our experience and our tools to deliver that very special custom product,” she said. Store employees all are skilled at helping customers narrow down their choices in everything from gemstone to the color of the gold used in the design. White gold has been popular for some years, Kari said, as part of a trend toward vintage designs. But yellow gold is making a comeback and the soft shades of rose gold also are growing in popularity. Diamonds, of course, remain the most popular center stone of choice for most customers, but diamonds in the different color spectrums are being used in many designs, Kari said. While Kari and her experienced staff love to spend their days dabbling in fine jewels, Kari also makes it a business focus to give back to the community. Learning a lesson from her great-grandfather and the generations in between, Kari feels a responsibility to make a difference where she does business. From supporting community gardens that help feed people to giveaways that raise funds for local non-profits, Kari’s Diamonds, along with her other two businesses, reach out to Emporia. “I think that’s what’s makes the business thrive,” she said. “It’s stewardship and that’s important. If there’s a gift in what my great-great-grandfather brought to business, to me, it’s the understanding that it’s so much more rewarding to give than it is to receive. That’s the truth.”


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