Richard Krementz was a leader in the jewelry industry for many years and led the business that carried his name until two weeks prior to his death. He was 86 and is survived by his wife Peggy and their children Rick and Betsy.
Richard Krementz fashioned and led the Krementz & Co to a pinnacle of the industry and then led it during a significant downsizing at the beginning of what were to be the very difficult times that struck the domestic jewelry industry in the early 1990’s. The Krementz jewelry manufacturing empire in Newark, New Jersey grew from a small manufacturing concern that began life making collar buttons. The business evolved to become truly a worldwide manufacturer of jewelry in nearly every product sector. From Krementz Gold Overlay at the lower end of the price scale, to Krementz Gold, to Shiman Religious, to the very high end McTigue and Richard Krementz Gemstones, in each of these business segments Richard insisted on high quality products. Regardless of the price point, quality was always the watchword at Krementz & Co.
Richard was never risk adverse. If he thought it was right he would forge ahead. As a result he was one of the first US manufacturers to do business with a Hong Kong factory. Krementz was an early advertiser in the Super Bowl. The company exhibited at virtually every trade show in the US as well as Basel and Vicenza. Krementz was one of the first bridal manufacturers to recognize and implement same day shipping for the wedding rings. The company was also a very early adopter of technology for manufacturing and the application of computers in the manufacturing process. Krementz was also a true contrarian in addressing the question of taking returns from retail. Because the company had so many accounts taking returns was not a problem.
Richard Krementz’s personal business interests were in the technical, manufacturing and computer areas. He relied on his cousin Walter, and his friend of 72 years, Ed Jadwin, to focus on the people skills of the business. Richard’s long time relationship with Ted Bonsignore running the financial side of the business rounded out the management team.
As time passed though, the decision was made to eventually sell Krementz & Co, As it turned out, selling the business in segments actually began in the early 1990’s. It was the beginning of the difficult times that would eventually confront the entire jewelry industry. It was a period of great change. Richard with help of Jadwin and Bonsignore built a jewelry business model that was in many ways similar to the way Alfred Sloan fashioned General Motors. There was a product for every demographic. Each product line had a separate operating management team and staff to accompany each division, including separate sales forces. It was, I believe, to some degree, the concentration of these overhead costs and the changing nature of the jewelry business with significant competition emanating from low cost manufacturing areas like Hong Kong and later India that added more difficulty to operating the various business entities.
A management-consulting firm was brought in to analyze the business and help to develop a plan that would remedy the situation. To his credit, Richard never flinched from the difficult task at hand. It was hard work. Decision-making that involves the layoff of hundreds of employees who had many years of service to Krementz & Co was heart wrenching for everyone involved. But, it had to be done if the company were to survive. I will never forget Richard standing before each group of employees losing their jobs that day. He explained what happened and apologized for the impact the decisions would have on their families. There were tears in his eye that day. He was old school and did things the right way. He was a man to be admired for how he handled the situation.
The result of the decision to downsize, difficult though it was, was positive. It bought time for the company to go in new directions. Eventually though, one by one each business unit was sold until there were three left: Krementz gold overlay, Shiman Religious, and Richard Krementz Gemstones. At the end of the trail, the only firm to survive was Richard Krementz Gemstones. If you knew Richard, you knew his real business passion was the gemstone business. He loved beautiful and exotic gems. He loved to buy and would walk around the Tucson show with a money belt and in his wake there were always gem dealers making a pitch to sell him.
There are many stories about Richard Krementz. He was a real industry character. My personal experience and observation was: he was a thoughtful and truly considerate man. He is someone I will always remember fondly. May he rest in peace.