This may not be a true fairytale, but it's as close to one as real life gets. Once upon a time, in the late 1960s, there were two high-school sweethearts living in the San Gabriel Valley east of Los Angeles – Jerry Kohl and Terri Kravitz (who is now Terri Kohl). They met, fell in love and started their own specialty store while they were still in high school. Each day when class ended, they opened their store selling T-shirts and leather goods to their classmates. After graduating in 1969, they operated their store full-time.
In the next chapter, as storeowners, they experienced the challenges small stores face, such as getting merchandise delivered on time. Jerry had ideas for improving things. Coincidentally, a couple named Lee and Ginny, vendors of theirs who owned a business that made belts, handbags and sandals out of a warehouse in Redondo Beach, California wanted to phase themselves out of their business. A short two years later, Lee and Ginny decided to sell their company in order to realize their dream of living in New Zealand where the surf was better! So, at age 19, Jerry bought into their company, Leegin, and set out to fill their shoes supplying specialty stores with leather goods (while Lee and Ginny traded their shoes for fins!).
When Jerry became president of Leegin in 1972, it was a men’s belt manufacturer. From the beginning, Jerry and Terri wanted it to be a different kind of business, built from the heart by knocking on doors and personally servicing the stores. The products would be created by their own designers and produced in their own factories so they could work hands-on to assure beauty and exceptional quality.
Through the 1970s and early 1980s, the designs evolved from jean belts to something more. The Brighton name began in 1985 out of the heritage of well-tailored, finely crafted, refined men’s belts - which the company then sold to men’s stores. The men’s stores also often had small ladies’ departments, so Lady Brighton was launched in 1990 with a small collection of classic tailored women’s belts made of traditional croco and crafted with the same quality found in Brighton’s men’s belts. Most specialty stores had to send their customers to a department store for a handbag, but with the debut of the Brighton handbag line in 1993 the stores were able to accessorize their customers with handbags to match the quality of Brighton belts.
Of course a woman needs a wallet and small leather accessories - so wallets, key fobs, lipstick cases, card cases and cell phone cases were added to the product line. Then other product lines followed: fine timepieces, signature fragrances, jewelry, gifts and sunglasses. During the same time frame, in 1998, the first Brighton-only store (which started from an idea by a specialty store owner) was opened in the Dallas Galleria... and became a runaway success!
By leaps and bounds beyond their original vision, Jerry and Terri's dream continued to grow. In 1995, footwear was added to the line – making Brighton the only product line that accessorizes women from head to toe! Today there are over 160 Brighton Collectibles stores and the company’s concern for its customers, consumers and employees extends from Brighton Headquarters and the stores that carry Brighton into the world nearby and around the globe.
Jerry and Terri have a deep commitment to empowering families through supporting the health of women and generously support a variety of charities including the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Soles4Soles (providing shoes for people who are in need in the U.S. and abroad) and numerous charities that feed the hungry in and near the communities which Brighton serves.