Brian Merkley, President & CEO
“One of the joys of my work is being a part of the special occasions in people’s lives. Having the opportunity to share in their joy as they celebrate brings meaning to my work, and I treasure the relationships I’ve developed over the years through these experiences.”
Brian Merkley spent many of his early years at Merkley Kendrick Jewelers along with his siblings. Upon graduating from Trinity High School and then Loyola University in 1996, Brian began working full time at the family business. He served as Vice-President until 2006 when he became the President of Merkley Kendrick and is proud to continue to serve the Louisville and surrounding community as he carries on the family tradition.
Nanette Merkley Vale, Chief Financial Officer
“I like being part of such a long-standing tradition and want to be a part of making that continue.”
Nanette Merkley Vale was born into the jewelry business and began working at the family business at a young age. She attended Sacred Heart Academy and the University of Louisville, became a Certified AGS Registered Jeweler, and began working full time at Merkley Kendrick. Formerly a sales consultant and inventory manager, Nanette is now the Chief Financial Officer.
Mark Redmond, CGA
“I take great personal satisfaction in presenting pieces that are superior and reflect exceptional quality vs. just a price point. It is a real pleasure when I get to take part in the happiness and expression of people’s love. I am pleased to present something that is exquisitely made for these special occasions.”
Mark Redmond has spent most of his career in the jewelry industry and has been with Merkley Kendrick since 1998. Mark brings a keen interest and knowledge in vintage and estate jewelry. Mark is a graduate of Westport High School and the University of Kentucky and has received certifications as an American Gem Society Registered Jeweler, Certified Gemologist, Certified Gemologist Appraiser, GIA Graduate Gemologist Appraiser, and Jewelry Insurance Appraisal Institute Certified Insurance Appraiser.
Matt Parrish, Director of Sales
“I started working in a family-owned jewelry business, and each day the owner taught me something new. Now at Merkley Kendrick after many years, I still find exceeding expectations of my customers always satisfying. I take pride in making sure the small things are taken care of because to others those things can be big. I like working where my customers are proud that their purchase came from Merkley Kendrick Jewelers.”
Matt Parrish comes to Merkley Kendrick Jewelers from Michigan where he worked for more than 18 years in the jewelry industry. He is a native of Louisville, attended Male High School and joined Merkley Kendrick in 2011. Matt is a GIA Accredited Jewelry Professional in Essentials, Gemstones, and Diamonds.
Rachel Keens, Fine Jewelry & Timepieces Consultant
“Engagements, anniversaries, births, graduations; it is an honor to be a part of such happy occasions in people’s lives. It is a great joy to help facilitate people communicating their love and joy through a piece of jewelry.”
Rachel began her jewelry career with Merkley Kendrick Jewelers in 2012 by way of South Oldham High School and the University of Kentucky. She has completed GIA studies and is a GIA Accredited Jewelry Professional in Essentials, Gemstones, Diamonds and Diamond Grading. Rachel brings a keen eye for repurposing client’s gems into new pieces to suit their current lifestyles.
Alissa Blow, Office Manager
“When I was a little girl my mom worked in a jewelry store. I remember begging to go to work with her so I could feast my eyes on all the “sparkly” things. Since then I have always dreamed of working in the jewelry business. When I shared with my family I was working for Merkley Kendrick Jewelers they said, “She’s arrived!”
Alissa joins Merkley Kendrick Jewelers and brings with her valuable business experience from owning her spa in New London, Iowa. She relocated to Louisville in 2016 after working at Nordstrom in Cincinnati.
Selby Barker, Bench Jeweler & Stone Setter
“I love working on the beautiful pieces at Merkley Kendrick Jewelers. I see so many beautiful gems and exquisite designs.”
Selby’s parents owned a jewelry store in Louisiana, and he grew up around the business. He then studied at the Texas Institute of Jewelry Arts and Technology and is a GIA certified in Diamonds and Diamond Grading. After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, he felt as though life there was too unsettled. Selby decided it was time to relocate and Merkley Kendrick was looking for a jeweler. He joined the team and moved to Louisville in 2008.
A Business for the Ages
Merkley Kendrick Jewelers has been providing fine jewelry to Louisville families since 1832. Brian Merkley, the third generation of the Merkley Family, is the current owner and president.
“It is a great privilege to serve our customers, some through generations of their families. To share in their joy and to help them mark the special occasions in their lives brings joy to my work and I’m sure each of my staff feels the same way, said Brian.”
Many business traditions also carry over from generation to generation including only offering the finest diamonds and gems. ”Customers can trust that what they are purchasing is exactly what we have told them. We pledge to protect consumers and to provide full disclosure of all facts pertaining to the products we sell, he added.”
Merkley Kendrick Jewelers is an AGS certified jeweler, which means they have met the exacting requirements necessary for membership. As a member, AGS jewelers help protect the public from fraud and false advertising and have dedicated themselves to ethical business practices. Additionally, they continue to develop and maintain superior gemological skills and knowledge.
“My name is on the door, and I run my business in a way that protects my family’s good name and reputation built through the ages. Being a member of the AGS is a recognized and peer-reviewed standard our customers know they can trust,” Brian commented. “My grandfather taught my father the same guiding principles and he, in turn, taught me, and I continue to follow them today. To remain in business through the generations, we must maintain our integrity. Our customers know we are true to our word.”
Trust takes Root
William P. Kendrick after apprenticing with W.C. Beard a Louisville jeweler, partnered with James Lemon to form Lemon and Kendrick Jewelers in 1832. Located at Fourth and Main, they were a successful jewelry and clock shop.
At that time Louisville was the largest city in Kentucky having surpassed Lexington in the 1830 census. Steamboats had begun to navigate the river. The falls of the Ohio were circumnavigated by the Louisville and Portland Canal completion. Louisville became a center for sales of horses and other livestock from the Bluegrass Region. Schools, hospitals, and hotels all began being developed and along with grander lifestyles the desire for fine goods amongst the middle class was growing. Those early years of Lemon and Kendrick were busy bringing goods from the east or making them locally.
In 1841 Lemon and Kendrick were forced to liquidate due to the Panic of 1837. The partners split amicably with Lemon later naming his son after Kendrick. Then in 1842 William P. Kendrick opened Kendrick Jewelers on Fourth Street and went on to become a respected businessman in the city as his business profits continued to recover from the recession.
Zachary Taylor, a resident of Jefferson County from early childhood and a hero of the Mexican-American War, was elected as the 12th president of the United States in 1848. The census of 1850 reported Louisville as the nation’s 10th largest city and Kentucky as the 8th most populous state.
The L&N railroad began operating in 1850, and upon completion of the Railroad in 1859, Louisville’s strategic location at the falls of the Ohio became central to the city’s development and importance in the rail and water freight transportation business.
Growing the Next Generations
In 1873 William C. Kendrick, son of William P. Kendrick joined his father as a partner in the newly named Kendrick &Son Jewelers and was located at 114 Main Street. In 1875, the store moved to 336 Fourth Street and then again in 1877 to 110 Fourth Street.
The first Kentucky Derby was run in 1875 at the Louisville Jockey Club track (later to be renamed Churchill Downs.) The race was originally shepherded by Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr., the grandson of William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and grandnephew of the city’s founder George Rogers Clark. Ten thousand spectators were present at the first Derby to watch Aristides win the race.
William C. Kendrick passed away in 1880 and his grandson George P Kendrick joined his father. The business was renamed Wm. Kendrick Sons.
IN 1883, U.S. President Chester Arthur opened the first annual Southern Exposition that would run for five consecutive years adjacent to Central Park in what is now Old Louisville. Highlighted at the show was the largest to–date installation of the incandescent light bulbs, having been recently invented by Thomas Edison, a former resident of Louisville.
By the 1920s the commercial center of Louisville was at 4th and Broadway. The riverfront area was still being actively improved with the building of the George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge in 1929.
In 1929, as a result of the depression, the Wm. Kendrick Sons was closed temporarily and reopened in 1932.
The Merkley Family Comes to Louisville
Joseph C. Merkley was born in 1903 in Jasper, Indiana. His father was a farmer and later a grocer. Working with his brother in the jewelry business in Jasper, Joseph Merkley studied the watchmaking trade in St. Louis beginning in 1928. He moved to Louisville in the 1930s and began working as a watchmaker for Elmer L. Gray a local jewelry store owner.
In 1929, as a result of the depression, the Wm. Kendrick Sons was closed temporarily and reopened in 1932. William P Kendrick, grandson of William C. Kendrick joined the Wm. Kendrick Sons at the close of World War 1. He eventually inherits the business along with a fourth generation member of the family. William Kendrick Ewing.
The great flood of 1937 submerged about 70% of the city and forced the evacuation of 175, 000 residents. Ninety people died in the flood. Later, flood walls were installed to prevent another similar disaster.
After World War II, downtown began to decline, and people moved to the suburbs. Interstate highways further reduced the importance of the center of town, and many buildings sat entirely or mostly vacant at this time.
Elmer L. Gray invited Joseph Merkley to partner as co-owner in his jewelry store, and the business was renamed Gray and Merkley Jewelers, located first at 18th and Oak and later at Southland Terrace Shopping Center.
Elmer L. Gray died in 1957 at the age of 89, passing full ownership of Gray and Merkley Jewelers to the Merkley family.
The Move East
In the 1960s Joseph Merkley’s sons joined the business. They opened a second Gray and Merkley Jewelers in the old Vogue Theatre Center in St. Matthews. The Merkley’s purchase Wm. Kendrick Sons in 1966. They closed the downtown location and renamed the business Merkley Kendrick Jewelers.
In 1971, the Chenoweth Lane site opened, and the two previous locations closed. William E. Merkley and Donald J Merkley, sons of Joseph Merkley took ownership of the family business in 1974. In 1980 they opened a Lexington store. Joseph Merkley remained actively involved in Merkley Kendrick Jewelers until he passed away in 1982.
During the 1970s and through the 1990s new high rises were built in downtown along the Main and Market Street corridors. The Kentucky Center for the Arts, Slugger Field, Museums, and Waterfront Park.
Third Merkley Generation joins the Family Business.
Nanette Vale joined Merkley Kendrick Jewelers in 1988 upon graduation from Sacred Heart Academy and the University of Louisville. As CFO, she is an integral part of business operations.
Donald J. Merkley exited the partnership in 1992, and William Merkley and his wife Carolyn continued the family business at the Chenoweth Lane location. Merkley Kendrick Jewelers celebrated its 160th anniversary in 1992 at Garden Court.
Since 2000, downtown Louisville has seen another major growth spurt including high rises, large-scale residential options. The KFC Yum Center was completed in 2010 bringing more restaurants and nightlife to the downtown area.
In 2001 Brian Merkley joined his family’s business upon graduation first from Trinity High School and then Loyola University. In 2004 he became Vice President of Merkley Kendrick Jewelers and in 2006 took ownership. His father, Bill, retired officially in 2011.