A Precious Legacy
Jo Miller of Brent L. Miller Jewelers & Goldsmiths comes from a long line of family-owned businesses.
Her grandfather, an immigrant from Sicily, was a tailor who owned and operated two pants factories in Reading and Perkosie, Pennsylvania, and her father owned and operated a formalwear/tuxedo business in Reading called 50-50 Tuxedos that is still in existence today.
“As a child I often went to our store and enjoyed helping customers and doing the window displays,” she recalls. “I learned many business practices from my family, one of them being ‘the customer is king.’”
Miller attended Catholic school and then went on to graduate from the University of Maryland with a degree in home economics, specializing in textile marketing.
“I enjoyed clothing and accessorizing, especially since I had to wear a school uniform for 12 years,” she said. “I got a great job working for Junior Colony, a women’s ready-to-wear clothing store out of Allentown.”
She worked there for eight years as a store manager, dress buyer, and then district manager. As district manager, Miller was responsible for 13 stores, two of which were in Lancaster. And as fate would have it, one of those two was located in the Park City Mall, where she met her then-to-be husband, Brent Miller.
“I was in the Park City Mall and walked by one of the chain jewelry stores where Brent worked as a goldsmith/jeweler,” she said. “He did his work inside a window where you could watch him work from outside the store in the mall.”
As Miller walked by, she flipped her hair back with her hand, she said, and it hit his window.
“He looked up and saw me and jumped out of his chair and ran out into the mall,” she said. “He approached me smiling, introduced himself, and invited me out to dinner.”
Three years later, they were married, and on April 1, 1980, the couple opened Brent L. Miller Jewelers and Goldsmiths on North Queen Street in Lancaster.
As their business grew, so did their family, and the three children they had together often accompanied Mom and Dad to the store—just as Miller had done when she was a child.
“Our customers knew our children and enjoyed watching them grow up,” she said.
Sadly, Brent Miller died unexpectedly in 2006, but Jo Miller knows how proud their father would be of them today. Their oldest son is a “high-end racecar mechanic in California, and our youngest [daughter] is a clinical staff psychologist in Rhode Island.”
Their middle son actually has followed in his parents’ footsteps and now works with Miller as part owner of their family store in Lancaster.
“He runs the show,” Miller said. “He is awesome … I learn something from him every day.”
Miller happily remarried in 2010 and recently became a new and proud grandmother of a granddaughter who provides her with, she said, her “favorite way to spend my time.”
Miller does most of the buying of new inventory for the store, working with “some of the most extraordinary designers and manufacturers in the world,” she said.
“Customers often ask me how I decide what to buy for the store … I have three rules,” Miller said. “It must be of a quality I’m proud to sell; I must feel desire to want to wear the piece myself; and I have to be able to visualize it on one of my customers.”
Miller said that often she’s so excited about a new piece that she can’t wait to call a particular customer she is confident will love her latest find.
The favorite part of Miller’s job is working with her customers. She values their time, the relationship she’s built with them, and the trust they have in her expertise.
Miller especially enjoys redesigning and repurposing older jewelry.
“I also oversee the estate/pre-owned section of our store,” she said. “We have one of the best and most unique estate jewelry sections.”
Jewelry is so personal, and pieces handed down from one generation to the next can have a very powerful emotional connection for those who are lucky enough to enjoy the legacy of an heirloom piece.
“We hear when and how the jewelry was given and received,” she said. “We share the memories with our customers … sometimes with tears of happiness and joy.”
Examples include a bride who wanted to wear the same set of pearls on her wedding day that her grandmother wore on her own wedding day, or a favorite pair of cufflinks from a beloved, deceased husband being turned into a pair of earrings for his wife to remember him by.
“Jewelry is a valuable and precious personal belonging that has special meaning when it is passed down,” Miller said. “Our jewelers are experts in refurbishing antique jewelry and giving it longer, everlasting life.
“One of my favorite customers who happened to be in the Coast Guard asked me to make him a necklace symbolizing his love for the sea,” Miller said. “We made him a rare, huge, 15-karat, white-gold solid ship’s wheel and set a large, round, brilliant-cut diamond in the center … He proudly wears it every day and is always getting compliments.”
Miller is also proud to support her local community as a way of thanking them and showing appreciation for what the community has done for her and her business.
“Some of the local charities we help are March of Dimes, United Disabilities, American Cancer Society, Lancaster Day Care, Children’s Miracle Network, and so many more … I especially have a special spot in my heart for the Ann Barshinger Cancer Institute,” she said.
Even a woman who is happiest when her customers are happy and when she’s putting smiles on the faces of others must have a few personal favorites when it comes to precious jewels and sparkling things, and Miller is no exception.
“I have a love affair with Ceylon sapphires,” she said.
“I also love large, excellent-cut diamonds that are D-E color and have amazing brilliance … presently in the store I have a gorgeous, bright-pink, sapphire-and-diamond bracelet. It’s a half of an inch wide with five rows of alternating pink sapphires and white, round, brilliant-cut diamonds. This bracelet is serious eye candy.” BW