Ronda Daily is no stranger to change. The owner of Bremer Jewelry since 1984, she has increased her business significantly over the years by implementing unique marketing programs and keeping up with the latest technologies.
Daily and her late husband, Les, bought the business from Ernest and Jane Bremer, who founded the original storefront—a modest 800 square feet—in downtown Peoria in 1953. Its current location on University Street is 10 times the size of the original store, and a second location opened in Bloomington in 2005. Despite selling the business he founded, Ernest Bremer has remained involved over the years. He actually worked for Ronda for another five years after selling, and last November, his image once again became the face of the company in the form of the cartoon character, Ernest J., the newest member of the Bremer family.
And more has changed for the business than just the location and ownership. For many years, about 40 percent of its revenues came from engagements. Today, Daily estimates that number is closer to 70 to 75 percent. Bremer’s tag—”Where Central Illinois Gets Engaged”—is not just a line, she says. The store offers services such as the “Proposal Planning Kit” for “confused” men and “Pray for Rain,” in which the cost of couples’ rings is reimbursed if it rains more than an inch on their wedding day. This fall, Bremer will open an expanded wedding-ring gallery within the store.
Daily has taken steps to prove that her store is truly qualified. She is a member of Preferred Jewelers International, a buying group of 100 independently owned jewelers who have been acknowledged for their strong integrity and ethical business practices. The group’s goal is to create prices that are competitive with corporate-owned stores, allowing for Daily to be “a small fish in a big pond.”
Technology has also played a crucial role in the company’s evolution. Daily’s husband, Craig, originally a data architect, now works at Bremer, taking care of the computer systems and administrative work. According to Daily, he has helped the store evolve its website and online store, as well as the other technological aspects of the business. While Daily keeps up with the latest technologies, she also warns customers to be wary of shopping at online stores, because “they don’t know what they’re getting. With us, they can see it, feel it, touch it, smell it, and say, ‘yes, I love this…this diamond or this ring speaks to me for the person I love.'”
The industry has changed as well. What used to be a “good ole boy network” has seen a rapidly growing number of female business owners. According to Daily, until just recently, “women were supposed to be pretty and sell stuff,” but she has seen an increase in networking opportunities for women, with groups like the Women’s Jewelry Association pushing women to the forefront of the industry.
Daily finds enjoyment in teaching the next generation of jewelers about the industry. “The biggest benefit for me is being able to teach young people and bring them along in the industry,” she said. “I’ve hired some younger people straight out of the gemological institute. They know a lot about jewelry, but they don’t know anything about business, and being able to bring them to a very positive point is just fun. That’s very rewarding to me.” iBi