When Edmund T. Ahee started his business from the trunk of his car more than 65 years ago, he simply had a passion for jewelry and for building a family business, said his wife and company CEO, Bettejean Ahee.
Indeed that passion drove Ahee to create an enterprise that is recognized nationally and internationally for the highest craftsmanship and customer service in the jewelry industry.
On Tuesday, Ahee Jewelers, the multi-generational family business that has been a Grosse Pointes mainstay, was recognized by the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences' with the Five Star Diamond Award.
Ahee is the first jeweler to ever receive a Five Star Diamond Award and the first business in Michigan.
Ahee joins businesses like the Trump Towers, the Plaza Hotel and the Four Seasons restaurant on the elite roster recognized by the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences.
The Academy was founded by singer Frank Sinatra in 1949 and recognizes the pinnacle of quality in many industries.
When Edmund Ahee was just a teen, his father passed away and, as the eldest son, he went to work to support his family.
"He really didn't have much of a childhood. He worked very hard but was always very generous," wife Bettejean said of her late husband and founder of Ahee Jewelry.
Despite working long hours in the auto industry, Edmund Ahee had a dream of a family jewelry business that he started from the trunk of his car and then moved to his uncle's bowling alley on Harper and Van Dyke in 1947.
The business eventually grew and, in 1968, moved to its current location in Grosse Pointe Woods, a former Desoto dealership.
What followed is a business that proudly employs three generations of family and has earned more than 100 awards over the past 65 years.
"We have customers in all fifty states and internationally too," Bettejean said.
Ahee's was even asked to create the vestment jewelry for Pope John Paul II's visit to the United States in 1987.
Bettejean attributes the company's success to one simple principle her husband professed, "Give the customer more than they expect."
"Virtually everyone in our family has been involved with the business in one way or another for three generations," company President Peter Ahee said.
Edmund Ahee brought his children and grandchildren to the business as soon as they were old enough to understand. Although, Edmund passed away in 1999, today 16 members of the Ahee family, ages 18 to 82, work in all facets of the family's business from design to website management.
Matriarch Bettejean Ahee said the younger generations of her family bring an understanding of the latest technologies which has helped the business navigate their brand's online presence on social media and the Internet.
'Rock of Ages'
Part of Tuesday's award ceremony was the unveiling of Ahee's latest creation, the "Rocks of Ages." The $250,000 jewelry ensemble commemorates Ahee Jewelry's 65th anniversary. The necklace, bracelet and earrings contain more than 65 carats of diamonds cut from a stone more than a billion years old.
Also modeled on Tuesday were one-of-a-kind pieces by Roberto Coin, Ivanka Trump and a cats eye necklace from the Matilda Dodge Wilson estate.
"We're very proud to be celebrating 65 years in business and we're grateful to all our customers who helped us get here," Bettejean Ahee said in a release.