Joe Barnes - LCL Class of 2006
When a business is built on family, every member of that family is an entrepreneur in their own way. Joe Barnes found his path to challenge himself as an entrepreneur by becoming a part of his parents’ team as a goldsmith in Barnes Jewelers.
Joe attended UW-Waukesha and Finlandia University in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. His original plan was to go for secondary education after such a great experience at Lake Country Lutheran, but changed to communication to get into radio and announcing. However, he came home and fell in love with the family business.
Barnes Jewelers was started by his parents, John Sr. and Corinne, in 1986. It was a quaint “hole in the wall” shop with a couple of cases in Cudahy. They moved to Brookfield in 1993 to expand their inventory and customer base, but 2005 brought them to their current Oconomowoc location in the Pabst Farms Marketplace. Since then, they have doubled their showroom and added more designer lines to provide the best for their even larger community.
John Sr. is the co-owner of Barnes Jewelers with CFO Corinne, his wife of 40 years. John is also one of the few certified gemologist appraisers in Wisconsin, and did gold-smithing and diamond setting until their master goldsmith, Dan Wilson, took over. Joe’s brother, John Jr., is the general manager, Joe is a goldsmith, his wife Jessica is in sales, and his cousin, Rita Ward, is an award winning designer for the custom pieces. Their customization ranges from small personalization touches to completely new one-of-a-kind pieces. Along with designing jewelry, Barnes Jewelers does repairs, resizing, remounting, chain replacement, and watches. Some notable pieces that came through for work include a Colts super bowl ring, links for a Wisconsin Badger’s Final Four watch, and a previous Badger quarterback found his fiancé’s engagement ring there.
Joe started in sales, but found it didn’t satisfy his creativity and feeling of accomplishment. So he started expanding his skill set by working with repairs. He furthered his abilities with Stewart’s International School for Jewelers in Florida for gold-smithing and design courses. Now he is honing his skills with continued teaching by Dan Wilson, their master goldsmith who has been in that field for over 50 years.
The family atmosphere in Barnes Jewelers is apparent. Joe said, “We want people to see and expect our integrity when they come in to our store. Our name is above the door. That’s our reputation. Our integrity and honesty is important. And not just that, we want to make friends with our customers, and make them a part of our family. They live in the community where we’re involved in and serve. Everyone is worth putting your time and effort into, so we want to do good work for them.”
Joe attributes a large portion of his family values to the Lake Country Lutheran community as well. He received the same attention and connection from the teachers and students at LCL that he strives to give in his work now.
“I did not want to go to LCL,” Joe said with a chuckle. “I fought my parents on it. I wanted to go to Arrowhead, the big school with lots of my friends and good sports. They sent me to LCL anyway, but said if I didn’t like it after a semester, I could switch. The first week I was there, my mind was made up. I wanted to stay at LCL. These young teachers were full of enthusiasm that loved what they did. They all made God the center, to see these teachers lead by example and pour that into you as well through their teaching style and leadership, even their curriculum. That’s the kind of atmosphere I wanted to be in.”
Joe also appreciated the benefit he received from the one-on-one assistance from a smaller school. He recalled more than one time when he would ask D Bahr (Mr. David Bahr) for assistance with his math homework during
lunch, and he was always open to help with the tricky problems even while he was eating. Joe takes this attitude of being a Christ-centered example into his role as a businessman, and now a father.
Joe still got his wish to play sports at LCL as well. He was part of the baseball team, football team, and theatre, and made great memories from that. He even returned after college and got involved as an assistant coach for the JV baseball team for a couple of seasons. At that point, the school was at the new campus and had their own baseball field, which was not something he had during his time. He was pleased to be able to see the next group of students enjoying it and building their memories, now from the other side of the fence.
Joe married his wife Jessica in 2013, and they have a one year old son, Donovan. They live in Rubicon, and are enjoying their time building their family and gaining more experience at Barnes Jewelers. Joe plans to continue building his skills at goldsmithing, and the family will keep doing good work together to potentially get another location for the business.
Follow Barnes Jewelers on Facebook and Instagram for specials and news. You can also look at their website to see more of what they offer for jewelry design, lines, and repairs.