Morris Helzberg opened the first Helzberg Jewelry Store on Minnesota Avenue in Kansas City, Kansas. A few years later, his youngest son, 14-year-old Barnett, took responsibility for the store after his father suffered from a stroke.
Barnett was an exuberant young businessman who saw an opportunity to gain more customers by advertising in the newspaper. He started with a $300 investment, but when it produced good business, he quickly increased it to $3000 and insisted on more ads and bigger spreads.
By the end of the decade, Barnett had expanded the business to three stores, including a prominent location at Eleventh and Walnut in Kansas City, Missouri, sealing his reputation as a distinguished jeweler in the Midwest.
Fixture manufacturer, Colonial Cabinet Company, had to increase its work force to accommodate the Helzberg expansion. They enthusiastically share their good fortune by placing a large sign headed THE PROSPERITY NEWS outside the store.
Barnett continued to spend money on exciting ads and promotions throughout the Great Depression. Expanding beyond newspaper advertising, Helzberg sponsored the popular Helzberg Sweetheart Hour radio program that provided uplifting entertainment to listeners each week.
Barnett made his greatest contribution to the jewelry industry when he and fellow jewelers established the Diamond Council of America–an institution for teaching jewelers and their salespeople the science of diamonds and gemology.
Barnett built the store of his dreams on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri. Designed in Fifth Avenue style, the three-level store was called Helzberg's House of Treasures.
On October 14, 1956, Barnett Sr. ran a full-page ad entitled An Open Letter to My Son, in the Kansas City Star, welcoming his son Barnett Jr. to the family business.
Helzberg Diamonds had come of age by the end of the decade, operating 15 stores in six Midwestern markets, as well as a successful mail order division.
The department store concept was a new and exciting opportunity for Helzberg expansion. More than 20 licensed jewelry counters were added in Woolco, K-Mart, Arlan and GEM department stores.
Barnett Sr. stepped up to chairman of the board giving 29-year-old Barnett Jr. responsibility for leading the company. At the time, Helzberg operated 39 stores.
Barnett Jr. proposed to Shirley Bush. The euphoria he felt about his engagement to Shirley led to an idea for an ad - a lapel button with the words I AM LOVED®. The ad copy told the consumer to buy her a diamond or give her a button, but in any case, tell her she's loved. Within weeks of its launch, the modestly conceived promotion became a national movement that put Helzberg Diamonds on the map.
Everybody, everywhere wanted a button - the New York Associated Press reported, "The newest craze is to show your affection by sending your heroes I AM LOVED® buttons.” President Lyndon B. Johnson, Frank Sinatra, Joe Namath, Jose Ferrar, Sammy Davis Jr., and Snoopy creator, Charles Schulz, were among the many celebrities and public figures to receive I AM LOVED® buttons.
I AM LOVED® buttons spread around the world and were ultimately translated into more than 11 languages. Since their inception, the buttons remain available free in all Helzberg Diamonds stores.
Helzberg pursued an aggressive expansion plan, averaging three new stores per year. While Barnett added many stores, he always made sure the company stayed focused on the needs of its customers.
Helzberg expanded into regional malls with a new open-store design, eliminating all doors and windows, and placing display cases near the outer edge of the store to attract customers. The new concept met with great success and by the end of the decade, Helzberg operated 42 stores in 16 states.
Helzberg continued to have success by stressing the importance of difference in the marketplace, backing the concept with truly unique jewelry. In 1982, Helzberg Diamonds was the first jewelry company to market a rare new gem, the Royal Azel.
Inspired by the success of the Royal Azel, Helzberg introduced its most important jewelry collection - the Helzberg Limited Edition. Each fall, customers anxiously waited for an invitation to see the new collections of Limited Edition jewelry.
Helzberg Diamonds began building stores in strip centers. These freestanding stores offered customers greater selection in more convenient locations.
Having grown the company to more than 100 stores in 22 states, Barnett was ready for retirement. But he wanted to ensure his family's business and its dedicated associates would continue to prosper. After a chance meeting on the streets of New York City, Barnett sold the company to Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffett–leaving the company with an exceptional opportunity for growth.
By the end of the decade, Helzberg had launched its e-commerce site, helzberg.com, and grown to 200 stores.
Highly regarded jewelry industry professional and outstanding multi-store retail executive, Beryl Raff was hand-picked by Warren Buffett to take over leadership of Helzberg Diamonds.
Helzberg entered the outlet mall arena opening its first location at Woodburn Premium Outlets in Woodburn, Oregon.
Helzberg Diamonds repositions the brand around a new tagline - Here's to Love - reflecting our company's shared purpose of making people feel loved and helping them celebrate life’s happiest moments.