A precious gem.
If it weren’t for a marriage in the family, one of Washington’s legendary businesses might have been known as Silverman’s, not Ben Bridge.
Among the oldest jewelry store chains in America, Ben Bridge Jewelers started out with a single small store in downtown Seattle. Initially, it was just Samuel Silverman, a watchmaker. Ben didn’t join the company until he married Sam’s daughter, Sally. When Sam decided to move to California for health reasons, Ben purchased the store and renamed it Ben Bridge Jeweler, a name that has been synonymous with quality, value and service since 1912.
The company was unique from the start. Ben instituted a hiring policy that required promotion from within, a rule that not only applied to outside staff, but family members as well. Everyone started out on the sales floor in order to learn the business from the ground up.
There were hard times, of course. The Great Depression struck the company particularly hard, and Ben watched many of his competitors close their doors. Through grit and determination though, Ben Bridge Jewelers found its way through these tough times, paying off demanding creditors plus interest and tightening the firm’s belt as much as possible.
As the nation began to enjoy new prosperity in the post-war era, Ben Bridge Jewelers set its sights on a bright future. In the 1950s, the company opened its first new store, managed by Ben’s son Bob. The new Bremerton store didn’t meet the family’s expectations, however, and was soon closed. A lesson learned, it would be some time before Ben Bridge gave serious consideration to expansion.
Ben eventually turned over day-to-day operations to his sons, Bob and Herb. They revisited the idea of expanding and after managing the jewelry departments for J.C. Penney’s Seattle stores for a time to get the feel of operating satellite operations, they felt confident that they could successfully expand Ben Bridge into shopping malls without compromising their high standards. The Southcenter Mall store was the first of many to come.
New stores continued to open throughout Washington State as well as in Oregon and California. In 1990, the company passed on to a third generation of Bridges, Ed and Jon. By now, there were 62 stores in 11 states.
Today, thanks to the guiding hands of the Bridge family and the support of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc., Ben Bridge Jewelers is one of the largest jewelry retailers in the country, ranking 12th. Bob, Herb, Ed and John have been joined by several of Ben’s great grandchildren, a new generation of Bridges anxious to take their rightful place in the family business.