Frank Bender was 17 years old in 1947 when he took a job as an errand boy for a jeweler in Chicago. He befriended the owner and worked as his apprentice for three years, learning how to set diamonds, design and manufacture jewelry, and run a successful company.
In 1956 he opened a repair business in the heart of the Chicago jewelry district. Referrals from respected members of the industry brought him numerous clients and he quickly became a "master craftsman." Nine years later, Frank Bender Jewelers introduced retail sales, while continuing to focus on repair work.
As Frank built his business, the time necessary to run it increased tremendously. Like many parents working long hours, Frank worked hard to find a balance between commuting, working, and spending time with his wife Mona and their children.
His son-in-law Eddie eventually joined the business and the two of them spent hours commuting to and from work together. In 1978, a friend asked Frank to check out a retail space for rent in Northfield. After the 15-minute ride from his home to the shop, he exclaimed, "Let's do it!" and he and Eddie moved the business out of the City and into Northfield.
In the wake of Eddie’s sudden death in 2006, Frank's daughter, Caryn, stepped in and joined the business. Caryn has become a fixture at the shop, and according to Frank, the business wouldn't exist today if it weren't for her.
This July, Frank will celebrate 40 years serving the Northfield community. He feels a deep connection and sense of warmth and gratitude to the people of Northfield. Frank and Mona raised four children and paid for their retirement through the revolving door of Frank Bender Jewelers.
Frank says that his goal was never to be the biggest retailer in the area, just the most reputable one. He prides himself not only on his craftsmanship and artistry, but on the trusting relationships he has built with customers and friends. He said, "We take pride in everything we do. We offer a personal approach because much of our work is done by hand. I'll never refuse a customer’s request for a repair- I've fixed everything from eye glasses to art work, and even set diamonds in dentures! You just never know what someone will bring in."
After 71 years in the jewelry industry, Frank now works part-time. If you stop into the shop, there is a good chance that you will see him and one or two of his children or grandchildren helping out or visiting. Aside from his successful business, Frank says his biggest pride is his beloved family. His children will live out his and Mona's legacy- not only by carrying on the family business, but by embodying their sense of passion, work ethic, and love for the Northfield community.