One of the largest, family-owned jewelry chains in the country, Rogers & Hollands, has made a move to reach the LGBT community according to openly gay jewelery designer Rony Tennenbaum.
Rogers & Hollands announced it is adding a new wedding jewelry collection created to celebrate marriage and equalitythrough the addition of Rony Tennenbaum's Jewelry collectionto its bridal cases in both its Woodfield Mall location in Schaumburg, and in downtown Chicago's Water Tower Place stores. The jewelry chain operates numerous stores in the Chicagoland area and throughout the Midwest.
"The fact Rogers & Hollands embraces the LGBT community [sends] a huge message to other retailers, to other establishments, especially larger establishments, that LGBT can feel safe and supported in their stores," Tennenbaum said in a phone interview. "There's no question, having the backing of a chain like Rogers & Hollands is huge."
And it is just the tip of the iceberg for same-sex couples, especially in Illinois, who are ready to tie the knot.
"Rogers & Hollands making a stand is very powerful, very important. It's a very big step," he said.
Tennenbaum said more and more retailers nationally have been reaching out to him as more and more states pass same-sex marriage. He noted that retailers in locations "that I would not have expected," have been contacting him as well, such as representatives from Detroit, Memphis, Mississippi and elsewhere.
"There seems to be a much bigger openness to accept [same-sex marriage]," he said. "I don't know if that's from a commercial standpoint, because there's a niche opportunity here that they are seeking, or that there really are some barriers and walls that are coming down; I think that has a lot to do with it as well.
"Store owners are really finding that the niche is something relevant, something important. They are now wanting to carry products in their stores that actually attract an LGBT audience. I think it's very interesting, very important. I think it's good to see that there are still supportive people out there; people who are willing to support the LGBT community."
Tennenbaum noted that there definitely is a growth and increase in the number of same-sex couples going to retail outlets, searching for their wedding and engagement rings. And Tennenbaum also is going into the gay communities more often, to answer questions. "That's a key new [aspect] to what I'm doing," he said.
"As we're developing these new traditions and these new etiquettes, which are evolving, I'm finding that there are more and more questions that couples want to know, want answered.
Questions include, who proposes, and, do both have to wear diamond rings, do rings have to match, and more."
One trend that's been hot this spring and summer, he said, is that couples getting engaged with secret proposals. "They are wonderful, charming stories. I find more and more of that is happening," he said.
Tennenbaum, who has 25 years of experience in jewelry design and manufacturing, has been active in same-sex engagement and wedding rings since 2008.
"I always have a lot on my plate, new collections that I'm working on, new ideas and concepts that are very interesting that will be coming out in 2015, expanding the niche, and more," he said. "The opportunities are tremendous out there for untapped markets, and that's a very important factor."