Brenda Starr and Bonnie Boxum of B&B Jewerly and Gifts
Small Town, High Class
B&B Jewelry and Gifts
Monday-Friday 9 am - 5:30 pm
Saturday 9am - 5 pm
Walk downtown Osborne and it is hard to miss the giant Christmas displays in several of the store windows. But one window, in particular, catches the eye: B&B Jewelry and Gifts. The store recently celebrated their 15th anniversary this fall, and how they got to this point is just as interesting as the inventory that they carry.
Bonnie Boxum and Brenda Slater worked at a jewelry manufacturer in Osborne for more than17. Bonnie was the bookkeeper and kept on top of orders and inventory. Brenda was a jewelry craftsman and gemologist, taking raw materials and forming them into the finished product. When the plant closed, the two women were out of work, but not out of ideas. And, rather than give up, they took their individual skills and created a business of their own.
“Community people asked us to think about starting a jewelry store,” Bonnie says. Brenda remembered thinking that all she would be doing is exactly what she had done for the jewelry manufacturer. But this time it would be for herself, not someone else. Alfred Harkness was a major supporter of the project and helped promote the idea around the community. A loan from the City of Osborne’s revolving loan fund helped the two set up B&B Jewelry and Gifts (which stands for either “Bonnie and Brenda” or “Brenda and Bonnie,” depending on how you want to look at it).
The demand was so strong, in fact, that, before the store opened, Bonnie and Brenda sold a first wedding set in the lobby of the bank where the fine jewelry was being stored in a safe deposit box. They also sold clocks and watches out of their home before their business was officially open in October, 1991.
Right away they knew the space was too small for the demand. The store was where the east portion of Sturgeon’s Gun and Archery Shop resides and had three jewelry cases and a couple of glass displays. “Inventory was not as stocked as it is today because we ran out of room,” Bonnie says. Shortly after moving in, Bonnie and Brenda purchased the building next door to expand the tiny shop.
But even that wasn’t enough. “You could tell customers felt uncomfortable in our crowded store,” Brenda says. The women wanted to do more gifts, but simply couldn’t because of the lack of space. After two years of discussing what to do, Bonnie and Brenda decided to purchase a building across the street, 114 West Main.
The purpose of the move was to make sure the space was set up to accommodate their needs. But, once the building was purchased, some problems cropped up—the plumbing and electrical—that pushed the costs over the initial estimates. In the end, “It was one contractor, three women and a couple of friends that got [the store] all together,” Brenda says. They installed slat walls on three sides of the store for the convenience of hanging items and the ability to move items around without leaving holes behind. “We could take off tomorrow and you wouldn’t know we’d been here,” Brenda says of the walls.
“People couldn’t imagine we could fill this space,” Bonnie says of the new space that is roughly three times the size of the previous store. But they did, and quickly, with everything from cookbooks to real Mexican vanilla, stoneware to potpourri trivets. The store features a wedding section, a baby section, knickknacks, candles, cards and, of course, jewelry and clocks.
Not everything they have tried has worked, Bonnie is quick to point out, “We tried our hand at clothing, but there was just not enough business to keep that going.” The store continues to carry baby clothing and accessories, but the younger generation is trained to go to “box stores” like Wal-Mart, Bonnie says.
The ladies believe that remaining competitive paired with good customer service is what brings people in from as far away as Wichita and Nebraska. “We go to Hays and Salina to compare pricing on jewelry and gifts,” Bonnie says. They visit stores gift stores like Hallmark and jewelry stores to make sure their items are priced right.
“A guy from Hays was referred here when he was looking to get engaged,” Bonnie says. He found a ring she had picked out previously and the price was right. The gentleman wanted to know how soon he could get the ring and Bonnie told him that Brenda would have it ready in an hour if he didn’t mind waiting. “He was amazed that we could do it all right here,” Bonnie says. The groom-to-be walked out with the ring that very day and proposed that night—and, she said “yes.”
B&B Jewelry and Gifts offers in-house ring sizing, re-setting, re-building, mounting, and replacement stones, as well as watch repair and a variety of gift ideas. “We can do pretty much anything that needs to be done except casting,” Brenda says.
After 15 years, the day-to-day operations of their store down are down to an art. “No one should be able to enjoy working six days a week this much,” Brenda says. Bonnie agreed, “We do enjoy what we are doing and like the town.”
Their future goals include paying off the loans on the current store And, although Bonnie says the economy has been rough the past three years, they keep plugging. Looking back over the years Bonnie says, “We wouldn’t change a thing.”