Imagine life during World War I. Imagine serving your country in the shipyards of Maryland while supporting a wife and three small children. Imagine the dream of a jeweler’s career becoming a family tradition spanning generations, and a shop becoming a multi-divisional company.
That is the story of Amrhein’s. A story that began with Fred C. Amrhein, learning the jewelry trade from his uncle at age 15, and later finding himself post-war seeking a better life for his family.
Fred believed Roanoke, VA was the place for him to become a successful businessman. And jewelry was his passion. In November 1921, he opened his first jewelry shop downtown on West Campbell Avenue, calling it F.C. Amrhein’s Jewelers. His twin sons, Russell “Bronie” and Oliver “Wookie,” began working in the business in 1933. After graduating from high school in 1936, they joined their father full time in handling jewelry repair, design and creation.
In the 1950s, Fred relocated his business to West Main Street in Salem, VA, where he remained until his retirement from the jewelry industry in 1970 at age 85. Russell and Oliver moved their business to a retail storefront on Kirk Avenue in downtown Roanoke, under the name F.C. Amrhein’s & Sons.
Russell’s son, Russ, joined the business in 1975. They opened a second store in Salem, and Oliver continued to operate the business in downtown Roanoke. In 1979, Russell and Oliver retired from the jewelry trade. The Roanoke store was sold to another firm, and Russ purchased the Salem location. During the next few years, the business had several locations and operated under the name Amrhein’s Jewelers.
After purchasing a freestanding location on West Main Street in Salem, the business introduced a bridal and formal wear salon, and the name changed to Amrhein’s Brides, Formals and Fine Jewelry. In 1995, a second freestanding location was purchased on Ogden Road in Roanoke to continue the successful retail offering of fine jewelry with bridal and formal wear. Also in 1995, Russ’s son, Chad, joined the business.
In 1996, Russ began pursuing his love of farming and his passion for wine, planting the first grape vines on Bent Mountain, VA. In 1999, AmRhein Wine Cellars opened its doors and Russ handed over his role in the retail business to Chad. The winery opened as the 62nd in Virginia. Today, there are over 150 wineries in the Commonwealth.
AmRhein’s Fine Jewelry, located in Roanoke and in Salem, features Antwerp Diamonds, a large Estate Jewelry Collection, beautiful pearls and colored gemstones, and lines like Pandora, ArtCarved and Hot Diamonds. In 2002, AmRhein’s introduced the Roanoke and Salem Charms, with charms commemorating historical landmarks of the Roanoke Valley. There are now over 75 charms in the collection, and new ones are released each year for the holiday season. AmRhein’s offers full scale jewelry services from repairs to design and creation, and can provide a wedding band to match every engagement ring, even if it requires a little innovation.
AmRhein’s Brides & Formals, conveniently located with AmRhein’s Fine Jewelry in Roanoke, is Roanoke’s exclusive retailer of Faragé, a French couture bridal line, as well as Maggie Sottero and Sottero and Midgley bridal lines. AmRhein’s can outfit the entire wedding party, with gowns for bridesmaids, flower girls and mothers. There is also a stellar selection of cocktail dresses and gowns for any special occasion from prom to black tie galas. And the guys are not left out, with tuxes for weddings and all occasions available for rent or purchase.
AmRhein’s Wines are 100% estate grown and processed. The wine cellars now consists of three vineyards boasting 40 acres and yielding 20 varieties of grapes. The portfolio contains 18 wines, and boasts numerous national and international awards. AmRhein’s Wine Cellars is an exceptional venue for events — from weddings, receptions and rehearsal dinners to corporate retreats, family reunions and holiday parties — with catering and many rental items available on-site.
2011 was the 90th anniversary of AmRhein’s — the Roanoke Valley’s oldest jeweler. Throughout the name changes and the business evolving to include bridal and formal wear and wine, jewelry has remained a father-and-son trade. The original business goals and services have remained intact, and there is still no other business in the Roanoke Valley like it. The inspiration and skills learned by Fred have been passed from one generation to the next. Today, Chad is grooming his children to follow in the family tradition. He and Russ follow Fred’s dream of seeing the opportunities for success that the future — and Roanoke — holds.