At just 51 years old, Tommy Rhinerson has been in the jewelry business for 43 years. As a young boy, he went to work for his grandfather, James Tucker, at Tucker Jewelers.
“I grew up in the business. Even at eight years old, I went and cleaned glass. Granddaddy would sit me at the bench and teach me how to tinker in simple things,” Rhinerson said.
Rhinerson can still remember opening day at the Executive Inn in 1977. Tucker Jewelers was the first store to open in the hotel. By 19 years old, Rhinerson began working for his grandfather 40 hours per week.
In 2006, just after his grandfather passed away, Rhinerson opened Lodan Jewelry Design Studio, a business title chosen with a special significance.
“I named the business Lodan because it combines the names of my two sons, Logan and Jordan,” Rhinerson said.
Representing his family in the jewelry business is something important to Rhinerson, who is a third-generation jeweler. His oldest son Logan works with him in the store and his younger son Jordan works at Tiffany & Co. in Lexington as a stone setter.
According to Rhinerson, heritage meant a lot to his grandfather. For this reason, the watch bench at Lodan Jewelry Design Studio is the same one Tucker used back in 1951. One ring in his current store will never be finished because according to Rhinerson, it was the last piece of jewelry that Tucker was working on before he passed away.
There are physical ways that Rhinerson preserves the memories of his grandfather, but he also said there are customers who have been special to their family for many generations.
“We have a couple who still come in now, who were our customers in the 1970’s,” Rhinerson said.
When Lodan Jewelry first opened, it was in the front corner of a building and was only about 500 square feet. In 2012, the building was completely redone and expanded. The building which is 4000 square feet includes a 1700 square foot showroom and a large workshop area.
While the space has grown over the years, one thing that has not changed is his core focus. Rhinerson, who has a degree in electrical engineering, says some of the skills he acquired in this field cross over to being a jeweler. He prides himself in doing his own thing, saying he tries not to pay a lot of attention to what others are doing.
“We’ve done some pretty unique custom design rings for people outside of Owensboro,” he said. “I’ve created rings for a customer in Lexington, three in Florida, several from St. Louis, and even one for a friend of my son’s in Pennsylvania.”
One of his favorite aspects of the job is the opportunity to offer customers a unique experience especially when couples come in together whether engaged or married. Rhinerson said he enjoys when the couple sits down and designs a ring together.
“I think the lady loves that the man takes the time to do that,” Rhinerson said. “We are making nice pieces of jewelry that are basically symbols of a time in their lives. When they take time to do it together, that’s special.”
The jewelry industry has always been a key part of the family. His dad Bob Rhinerson was also at Tucker Jewelers as a watchmaker. As far as future plans, Rhinerson said that he told his wife he doesn’t plan to ever retire.
“Granddad worked until he was 86 and his body would not let him anymore,” Rhinerson said.