My Bridge Experience – Fred Hornshuh
My name is Fred Hornshuh
I’m a 41-year-old, 3rd generation jeweler, who owns and operates Carlson Brothers Jewelry in Tacoma, Washington. The store has been family owned for more than 70 years, founded by my great uncle, now 92 years old, in 1942. We employ several jewelers, a wax carver, and a watchmaker. Our store completes all of our own repair and manufacturing from start to finish, with the exception of the Stuller lines and CounterSketch®. Our full-time watchmaker has been with us for almost 30 years and performs everything from watch battery replacements to complete overhauls on the finest wrist and pocket watches. To us, our customers are like family. They are, by far, the most important part of our business. There isn’t a single person on our team that would choose a 3-carat diamond sale over the heartfelt emotions coming from across the counter. To us, there is no greater compliment than having a customer go further than just trusting us with their precious heirlooms, but actually choosing to share their experiences and lives with us.
A little history about me
By age 12, I was learning to size rings under the supervision of my father, who is now the vice president of our corporation. I continued to work solely on the bench until I was 18 years old — performing jewelry repair, casting, stone setting, and filing and finishing of castings. At age 18, I was old enough to begin working at the counter when needed. I enjoyed helping customers with all of their jewelry needs. This worked out great for everyone because I was the only person on staff that worked both in the shop and at the counter. Despite my young age, this helped me to build reputability in an industry where “gray hair matters!” This also was a great preparation in learning the day-to-day operations of the business and led to my father and I purchasing Carlson Brothers Jewelry in 2013.
Being led to Bridge
I first heard about Bridge in 2012 when Julia Champagne from Stuller visited our store. It only took five minutes of her sincere and hospitable nature before I began to contemplate flying to Louisiana for the opportunity to meet the rest of the Stuller family. My interaction with Julia was nearly enough to get me to spend a few days away from our business, but the fact that there was a CounterSketch class immediately following Bridge finalized my decision to attend. We had recently purchased CounterSketch Studio™ and I desired to get the most out of that investment.
Prior to arriving to the 2012 Bridge event, I honestly thought that the event would have a focus on selling me Stuller products with a touch of hospitality and networking. This was not the case at all. While the education that I received about Stuller products was a key point of Bridge, it definitely took a back seat to Stuller’s unrivaled hospitality and networking opportunities (which have further developed into lasting friendships and business relationships with both the Stuller staff as well as other jewelers across the country).
The second time around
My second Bridge attendance was in August of this year. There were three main things that fed my desire to attend Bridge a second time.
- The first reason was that I have a new Sales Manager that really stood to benefit from the experience.
- The second reason was that Stuller is an amazingly progressive company with proven results of sustained progress. These results were sure to provide me with new industry information that wouldn’t have been available four years prior when I first attended Bridge.
- The third reason was my excitement to have another opportunity to benefit from the networking opportunities that happen at Bridge.
Stuller has created a very relaxed environment for jewelers from across the country to share freely with each other about their own personal experiences, especially within our historically “hush-hush” industry.
Bridge taught me many things the second time around, just as it did in 2012. I learned many useful ways to reach out to the current generation of customers, in addition to getting a good look at how to start planning for the up and coming generation. I also learned so much about all of the resources that Stuller has available to me as a customer as well as clear instruction about how to apply those tools in a way that will make my business more efficient. These applications are sure to result in greater profitability.
The best description for Bridge is all in the name. Stuller sees the value in bridging the gaps between themselves, the independent jeweler, and fellow jewelers. Because of this insight, Stuller’s customers know that they are part of the family. This builds the trust that is needed to truly understand the mutual partnership that desires each other to succeed.
Now that I’m back home, I can reflect and use all that I’ve learned, especially as I prepare for the Christmas season to arrive. I will continue to apply Stuller’s available resources to help streamline my operations. I have also continued to build on the relationships that were introduced to me during the event, with both Stuller employees and other jewelers. I have dedicated more time to our social media platforms, something I learned during the event. I am also working much more efficiently with Stuller Showcase™, which now makes even more sense to me. I have dedicated more time to CounterSketch as well, a tool that I have admittedly been neglecting over the last 2 years. I’ve even implemented the Red Box Diamond® Memo Program and love it so far!
I am excited about pursuing open communication among my peers as we continue to learn and grow together in this ever-changing industry.