Rio has never been one to shy away from change. In fact, it’s our adaptability and willingness to embrace favorable change that have supported our staying power all these years.
Rio Grande has reached another milestone in its long, steady growth. From the tiny family-owned and operated business that started nearly 70 years ago to the globally recognized provider to the jewelry industry we are today, we continue to look into the future to ensure our commitment to serving and enriching the jewelry industry.
This new year marks a turning point for Rio Grande as our brother, Hugh Bell, embraces retirement. This decision on his part created an occasion for the Bell family to take an in-depth look at Rio Grande’s long-term ability to continue improving our product and service offering to you, and we determined that it was appropriate to begin a transition away from family ownership.
As of January 1, 2013, Rio Grande will become part of The Richline Group, a Berkshire Hathaway Company. Our family feels strongly that in Richline and Berkshire Hathaway we have found an ideal partner, one that shares our values and provides the resources to allow Rio Grande to continue to encourage and support your passion for making jewelry.
While there is a change in shareholder ownership, there is no change in the management of Rio Grande. My sister Molly Bell, my brother Eddie Bell, and I will continue in our leadership roles, as will the rest of our management team and, of course, our valued associates remain as committed as ever to providing you with great products, stellar service and expert technical support.
When it comes right down to it, you—our partner in business, our friend of Rio, our collective, vibrant industry—are where our commitment remains. That will never change. And with this favorable change in ownership comes even more potential for doing more, for you, and doing it more effectively, for decades to come.
Alan, Molly, and Eddie Bell
Rio Grande began with a vision of better serving the jewelry industry. What started as a small operation has grown into an international distribution center for thousands of valued customers. Our vision remains much as it was when Saul Bell founded the company more than 65 years ago, with customer service, support and satisfaction the basis for all business conduct. As a young man, Saul Bell dabbled in a number of occupations during the ebb and flow of war, the Crash of '29, the Great Depression, and the second world war. During one of his stints in construction, he happened to pass through New Mexico on his way to California and marvelled at the vast quantities of silver jewelry available at stops throughout the southwest. It didn't take this young entrepreneur long to realize that the skills he learned as a jeweler's apprentice under his uncle, and the experience he gained during the 20s, when he had his own jewelry business, could be a valuable commodity in a place like New Mexico. So, with a lot of ambition and not much else, he gathered up his new bride, Olive, and moved to Albuquerque.
Within a few years, Saul's vision paid off, and in 1944 he was able to buy the old White Eagle Trading Post on historic Route 66 in Albuquerque when the owner passed away. These were war times, and silver was scarce, but Saul managed to keep his doors open to allow the silversmiths to continue their work. He extended credit to craftsmen who wouldn't otherwise have been able to continue working during such hard times, and so gained the reputation of being not just a fair and honorable businessman but a friend as well. His strong belief in people, coupled with a desire to share his knowledge of jewelry-making, continued when he moved his operation to a bigger location in 1947. The business was renamed Rio Grande Wholesale Jewelers and Rio Grande is still the name under which our distribution lines-Tools & Equipment, Gems & Findings, and Display & Packaging-operate and are widely known.
The tradition of excellence in the jewelry industry that Saul Bell started more than 65 years ago still flourishes today. The company is led by Alan Bell (President), Molly Bell (Executive V.P.), Eddie Bell (V.P. of Manufacturing), Danny Cox (V.P. of Finance) and a team of business development coaches. Together, the leadership and associates of Rio Grande take a highly evolved approach to participative management, and strive to work in as flat a hierarchy as possible. The company is principle-based, rather than rule-based, and operates within a framework of 15 principles that have been developed over the years and that continue to serve as the foundation for all business and interpersonal decisions.
Rio Grande remains an industry leader highly respected for serving customers with integrity and high standards in jewelry manufacture and distribution. The value Saul placed on sharing his knowledge with others continues, too, through The Santa Fe Symposium. This annual not-for-profit event, co-founded by Eddie Bell, provides a forum in which jewelers can gather and share information and gain the knowledge they need to manage their businesses more successfully. Clearly, the vision Saul Bell had so long ago of helping others to learn, and the legacy he left behind of high standards and excellence, continues.
Almost everything requiring electricity at Rio Grande—from jewelry making and manufacturing equipment to lights and computers—is powered by the sun, and we’re basking in the wonder of it all. How did we get here?
When we installed almost five acres of solar panels at Rio Grande's facility in New Mexico, we were the first system in the state able to generate one megawatt of energy at peak output. Mega-what? Megawatt! All that sunlight adds up to more than 1.6 million kilowatt hours’ worth of electricity each year. That's leaving a lot of watts at the electric company that others can use!
Like most ideas, this one began as a flicker of a possibility. It soon developed into a full-fledged effort to install more than 5000 locally-made solar panels atop the Rio parking lot—that's the largest commercial solar array in New Mexico!
This forward thinking leads to increased efficiency and stable energy costs, while filling the need to find renewable fuel sources. It's wonderful to be a part of the solution and to use this abundant (especially in New Mexico!) natural resource to power our business—and yours.