Cortana store front in 1978. Photo courtesy of Lee Michaels.

Lee Michaels continues to dazzle customers 40 years after BR launch

Photo courtesy Lee Michaels.

As you’re handed a red box with a black satin bow, you can’t help but beam with anticipation as you peak to see what’s inside. This is the signature wrapping of Lee Michaels Fine Jewelry, and the excitement it brings has lived on for 40 years.

Nothing today is the same as it was in 1978, and jewelry holds no exception. Founder and CEO Lee Michael Berg has been able to witness firsthand how the jewelry industry has evolved through the years. “I think the biggest change for us has been the advent of branded jewelry,” Berg says. “Just like clothing, jewelry has now become branded with certain designers, like David Yurman and Konstantino, who sell their brands through our stores. Forty years ago, none of those brands were available, and they never put the names on the jewelry.”

October 16 marked the 40th anniversary of Lee Michaels, which is now one of the largest family-owned and -operated jewelry retailers in the nation. Berg and his wife Brenda chose Cortana Mall in Baton Rouge to be the first of many Lee Michaels locations. Following the success of the Cortana Mall store, the next 20 years saw Lee Michaels popping up all over the South with stores opening in Shreveport, Lafayette, Jackson, New Orleans and San Antonio. Lee Michaels recently opened its first New Mexico store in Albuquerque.

The company’s nine stores all embrace the ever-changing accessories trends. “Engagement rings and diamond earrings are the two categories of jewelry that, traditionally over the years, have always been popular,” Berg says. “An engagement ring is something that every bride usually has, as well as a pair of diamond stud earrings.”

According to Berg, Lee Michaels is special because of its people. “We spend a tremendous amount of time trying to attract the right people and making sure they have gemological knowledge,” says Berg. “Our people are probably our greatest success.”