Bove Jewelers to reopen with new owner
By Steven Hoffman
Bove Jewelers, one of Kennett Square's most enduring stores with an 86-year history, will soon reopen after Bob Strehlau, a fifth-generation jeweler, purchased the business from George Reinas.
Strehlau served as the longtime general manager of Bove Jewelers until it closed in mid-February. He is planning a reopening of the store on Saturday, March 12, with a number of surprises for customers.
When the extended going-out-of-business sale concluded on Feb. 13, the merchandise was gone, the store was dark, and the future of Bove's was uncertain. Strehlau said that the overwhelming response from clients in the months leading up to the store closing convinced him that he needed to do what he could to continue the legacy.
“There was too much demand for the store,” Strehlau said. “We got such an overwhelming response from our clients, from West Grove to West Chester to Delaware.”
After discussing it extensively with his wife, Jacci, he decided that he wanted to buy the store, including its name. At 10 a.m. on Feb. 22, Strehlau officially became the owner of the business.
“It was a wonderful day,” Strehlau said. “This is definitely the only jewelry store that I would ever want to own.”
The news that Bove Jewelers would continue was well received around town.
“We are thrilled that Bob will continue the tradition of Bove Jewelers in Kennett Square,” said Historic Kennett Square executive director Mary Hutchins. “For many years it has been a destination business in the downtown, and we are so happy that it will continue to be a destination business. We look forward to working with Bob and the staff at Bove’s to support them in any way we can.”
“I am delighted that a new business operator has chosen to occupy the storefront so quickly,” added Kennett Square Borough Council president Dan Maffei.
“I'm very excited for Bob to reopen Bove Jewelers and continue the outstanding legacy that Bove's has created over the past 86 years,” said council vice president Geoff Bosley. “It is a Kennett Square institution started by the Bove family, continued and enhanced by George Reinas, and now Bob will have an opportunity to raise the bar even further. I wish Bob all the luck in the world, and know it will be a success story. It's terrific to see a landmark stay in Kennett Square.”
During its 86-year history, Bove Jewelers specialized in fine jewelry, watches, diamonds, and giftware. The business traces its origins to 1929, when C. L. Thomas opened a store in town. Barbara Bove purchased the business in 1961, and ran it until 1993, which is when Reinas took over as owner.
Strehlau, a Ridley, Pa., native, was seemingly born to be the owner of a jewelry store like Bove. His family has a long history in the jewelry business, dating back to 1879 and spanning five generations. His family owned stores in Cape May, N.J., and Aston, Pa. His grandfather, Charles Holland, was a watchmaker and diamond setter who helped introduce his grandson to the business. Strehlau was working primarily as a goldsmith and as a diamond setter before he was recruited by Reinas to work at Bove in 2001. He became the store's general manager three years later.
“It was an entirely different jewelry store than I had seen before,” he said.
The customers at the Kennett Square location were very fashion savvy and knew a lot about the products that they were buying. It was also a very friendly community. One thing that Strehlau discovered during his early days as the general manager is that he also enjoys the retail aspect of the business.
“Interacting with clients is very rewarding,” he said. “It is one of the few occupations where you can put a smile on every client's face. And every day brings something different.”
He and his wife quickly grew to love the Kennett Square community as well, relocating to the area in 2004.
“We knew that I wanted to stay with the store for as long as it would keep me,” he said.
His dedication to the store and his understanding of the Kennett Square area made the decision to buy the store an easier one. Now, he's working on developing his plan for the future.
He's working on changing the Bove Jewelers logo slightly. The logo will now feature an “S” in the diamond that is placed above the “J” in Jewelers as a nod to his own family's long history in the jewelry business. The new owner, and by extension the store's clients, won't have to worry about the quality of the service. Strehlau has been able to keep most of the experienced staff members, ensuring that the rapport with clients will be maintained.
“We're right in the middle of getting things ready,” Strehlau said. “We're going to have some surprises.”
One significant change, according to Strehlau, is that he is going to focus on bringing in a wider variety of products, ranging from basic to contemporary to high-end lines. “We want to bring in some more affordable jewelry,” he said. “There will be something for the whole family.”
That includes children. One entire showroom will be devoted to merchandise for children of all ages, which will make Bove Jewelers just one of three jewelry stores in the country to have a showroom dedicated exlusively to children. Strehlau has reached agreements on contracts to offer Disney, Star Wars, and Lego merchandise. This showroom will be set up to be kid-friendly, too.
Strehlau will continue to be one of the main buyers for the store, and staying informed about the latest fashion trends is an important part of the job.
“What sells great in SoHo or Los Angeles is not going to be what sells in Kennett Square,” he said. “That's a challenge, but it's also fun.”