Our History

Strength through Tradition: The Story of Us.

You could say the jewelry business ticks in our family’s genes, and somehow, an old grandfather clock became the center of our story. In 1938 my grandfather, Martin Binder, after paying the annual tuition fee of $225, earned his degree in horological science from the Elgin National Watch Company Watchmakers College. Soon after, he began his internship in Gary, Indiana at Kuppler’s Jewelry, the store owned by his sister, Jeanne Kuppler. But fate intervened.

When his sister hired pretty Mary Helfrich to help with part-time jewelry sales, the rest, they

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say ‘is history’, because the watchmaker and salesgirl fell in love. Martin Binder and Mary Helfrich married in Gary and began a marriage and business partnership that spanned over thirty years, eight store expansions, more philanthropic events than grains of sand on Porter Beach, and three children—who all went on to become career jewelers in the family business.

But first, back in Gary, Martin’s reputation as a skilled watchmaker grew—so much that in 1940, Martin ventured out to open his own watchmaking shop, Binder’s, in nearby Hobart, Indiana. My grandfather then moved his store to Columbia City, Indiana before returning to his roots in Northwest Indiana in 1950. There in Valparaiso—its population buoyed by the bursting steel industry—my grandfather hung his blue and neon-lit jeweler’s sign outside the red brick Bondi building across from the downtown courthouse, making his retail home the small 300 square foot storefront on the Franklin Street side of the Lincolnway building.

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Relocating the business to Valparaiso was a good decision for Martin and his growing family. By then, the Binder clan included daughters Carol (my aunt), Jeanette (my mother), and infant son, Martin John (my uncle) and in Valparaiso, the town nicknamed “the Vale of Paradise” lived up to my grandfather’s expectations. Expanding beyond watch repair, my grandparents reinvested their profits into the store, and brought in many new selections of the finest finished jewelry. Binder’s Jewelry continued to grow.

Soon, Binder’s was booming. In the late 1950’s, Martin Binder Jeweler expanded two spaces

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south into the corner space of 23 Lincolnway (the downtown building known today as the Binder Building) into the prime corner recently vacated by a pharmacy. My mother Jeanette, my aunt Carol, and my uncle learned the trade too, the girls spending hours after school on the sales floor, while Martin John, like his father, found a love of watchmaking.

After high school graduation, Martin John enrolled in watchmaking at the renowned Gem City College in Quincy, Illinois and later joined his parents full-time, managing the engraving and watch repair departments. He honed his watch making skills a few years later, when he became one of the first Rolex certified watchmakers in Northern Indiana.

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Daughter Carol Binder Looft joined the family enterprise too, managing and maintaining the office. And, around this time, when I reached the ripe old age of eleven or twelve, my family allowed me to come in to the store too and “work”, spending after-school hours cleaning showcase counters and sweeping floors. After all, shouldn’t we all have to learn from the ground floor up?

Again, we expanded the store, taking over more retail space of the building we now owned. The family business flourished until 1976, when, the day his long-anticipated Herschede grandfather clock arrived at his store, my grandfather passed away suddenly. Soon after, Mary Binder took over the helm of Martin Binder Jeweler with her son Martin John as partner.

That year, my mother Jeanette joined her brother and sister, the trio working toward their parent’s shared mission of distinguished service and quality.

In 1989, I became an official third generation Binder jeweler. After graduating from business

Photo courtesy of Aran Kessler

Photo courtesy of Aran Kessler

school, and working in alternate industries, I moved back home to Valparaiso and joined Martin Binder Jeweler. The next year, we expanded into the full city block of the Binder Building, and added new designers such as Tiffany & Co., and more to complement our exclusive collections including Rolex timepieces.

Robert J. Flude, III, Photo courtesy of Northwest Indiana Business Quarterly Magazine.

Robert J. Flude, III, Photo courtesy of Northwest Indiana Business Quarterly Magazine.

The business thrived. In 2007, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s, my grandmother passed away. Together, her three children and I recommitted to growing the business; Jeanette as designer and buyer, Carol as office manager, and Martin John as owner and master watchmaker, while I began traveling more and heading overseas, cutting out the jewelry middlemen by direct purchasing diamonds and jewelry.

Then, after thirty-seven years at the watchmaking bench, my uncle and business partner, Martin John, retired. Now, my mother Jeanette and I honor the heritage and legacy of trust and value instilled in us by her parents.

Today, we’ve grown a bit, with a little bit more showcase space, but my grandparent’s old grandfather clock still chimes on today, now in a prominent spot in our new store.

So when you come into see us on Highway 30 and you hear that old clock chime, what we’d like you to know is this: We are committed to you, and we strive to stay true to my grandparent’s commitment of giving back to our community, while providing the

Photo courtesy of Valparaiso Magazine.

Photo courtesy of Valparaiso Magazine.

finest jewelry at the most cost-effective prices, and treating our clients like friends and family—with kindness, honesty, and integrity.

Thank you, Valparaiso and Northwest Indiana: It’s been a pleasure to grow with you.

Sincerely,
Robert J. Flude, III, Graduate Gemologist
President, Martin Binder Jeweler

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