After 45 years, locally owned family business passes to new owner

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — If you live in Austin, you can probably think of at least a few Austin favorites that have either closed or sold to a larger company. 

But in Russell Korman Fine Jewelry’s case, the name Korman will live on. The owners turned down higher offers to keep their store local.  

Rusty Korman and his brother and sister-in-law, Hank and Monica Korman, said they’ll be retiring in January.

“We’ve achieved a lot, so it’s kind of, for me personally, hard to walk away from that, but it’s kind of like, giving up your daughter to get married,” said Hank Korman. 

He said the family has been thinking about a transition plan. “We were concerned just like anybody else for the future of small retailers, but we think we really have a unique cool family business here, and we do. How long is that going to last? What’s the next step for Amazon, for Walmart?” said Korman. 

With that in mind, the Kormans did their research and decided to sell the store to another family. 

“It was a little early, maybe 3 or 4 years before we were ready, but how many times would you have this opportunity?” said Hank Korman.

Larry and Kat Stokes are now the new owners. 

“[It’s a] dream come true,” Larry Stokes said. “I think it’s everything. If you are specializing in something special, and you’re involved in the community, I mean that’s ultimately who I want to work with. I mean, I’m a consumer too. When I go out there, and I work with individuals, I want to shop local.”

The Stokes will shorten the store’s name to KORMAN.

In a news release, they said, “Many of the store’s long-time employees will remain as KORMAN expands its fine jewelry offerings to include a broader selection of unique international designers, diamonds and the finest Swiss timepieces.”

Rusty Korman said, “Most independent jewelers have gone by the wayside unless a family member will take it over. KORMAN will be here for the next 30 years. I’m leaving my customers in good hands.”

Small businesses in Austin

City officials understand even with a decades long legacy, running a small business can be a challenge, especially here in Austin.

Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo said, “We hear from small businesses a lot, their struggles in staying open in the City of Austin.”

She said some owners have come to her about utility costs and increasing rents. 

City Council Member Alison Alter said, there’s also a challenge “of how to get through the permitting process.”

She has put in a request in the budget to hire two people “who will be working out of the Development Services Department to help our small businesses navigate the permitting process.”

Alter explained, “Right now, the way things are set up, you have to hire someone to navigate the process. This way, they can go in and take advantage of folks at DSD who are dedicated to helping them get through the process quickly, so they can get on with what they do best, which is running their business.”

Tovo said small businesses play a crucial role in our local economy.

“We’re rich in our diverse, independent small businesses,” she said. “It is where so much expansion has happened in our economy, and when those dollars stay local, they get invested right back in our community, and they provide jobs and resources for Austin families.”

Alter said, “When they’ve been there for many years, they’re often the go-to place that you go to, and they feel like neighbors. They contribute to the community.”

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