10 RETAILER HALL OF FAME 2017 T o get to know John Henne, the owner of Pittsburgh’s Henne Jewelers, one might start by reading his great-grandfather’s obituary. Rudolph Joseph “R.J.” Henne founded Henne Jew- elers in 1887. Upon his death in 1936, the Pittsburgh Press described him as a “gentle, retiring man whose acts of charity and deeds of kindness were as numerous as they were unostentatious.” Four generations and 130 years later, the same could be said of John Henne. Along with his sisters, Henne grew up in the family business, which was headed by his father, Jack, who is now retired, though he still pops into the store occasionally. “The real advantage I had over many other people in this industry is that my dad, from very early on, let my sisters and me make the decisions that im- pacted the future of the business,” says Henne. “Even though he was the pres- ident and really ran things, his attitude was that ultimately it would be ours, so we should be making the decisions.” Henne officially joined the store in 1992, following completion of an accounting degree at Grove City College and a three-year stint as a certified public accountant at KPMG. From the outset, Henne wanted to innovate. “[Bridal] was the challenge and the opportunity when I joined,” he says, noting that, at the time, it only accounted for 2 percent of sales. Henne used his personal connections in the community to be- come a go-to store for engagement rings. By also reducing margins, transitioning to diamonds with grading reports, and increasing inventory, the bridal business increased naturally over the years. Longtime colleague Clayton Bromberg of Underwood’s Jewelers in Jacksonville, Florida (a 2003 inductee of the Retailer Hall of Fame himself), credits Henne’s accounting background and business acu- men for his rise over the years to become “one of the retail leaders in the field in all of the country.” “His approach to things is not just a gut feeling,” Bromberg ex- plains. “He goes in and systematically looks at everything, methodical- ly and financially, to help him with decision making.Then he also seeks advice from experts in the field.” Of all the expertise Henne has solicited, his fa- ther’s lessons are the ones that resonate most. Henne says the most valuable thing he learned from his dad, whom he de- scribes as humble and family-oriented, was, “to always do what’s right, even when it hurts.” As an example, Henne recalls that shortly after he and his sisters took over ownership of the store in the 1990s, a customer contacted him wanting to sell some tanzanite. Henne’s gemologist estimated the stones to be worth $4,000 to $5,000 and Henne arranged for a dealer in New York to buy them. In the midst of an office move, the New York dealer lost the package of tanzanite, but offered to pay the customer $5,000, the higher end of the estimate. The customer changed his mind, deciding the tanzanite was worth far more, about $11,000 or $12,000. “My first feeling was that it wasn’t reasonable,” Henne remembers. His father, however, told Henne that the customer was always right, stressing that it was Henne’s job to rectify the situation. Henne ended up paying the difference. Guided by Faith and Family For this fourth generation Pittsburgh jeweler, integrity comes first and business comes second. BY ASHLEY DAVIS SINGLE-STORE INDEPENDENT INDUCTEE JOHN HENNE John Henne, far left, is the owner of Henne Jewelers in Pittsburgh. He’s pictured here with his father, Jack, and son Luke.