MARK SEXTON, DIAMOND BUYER
Team member since August 2012
Tell us about your career path and what led you to join the J.F. Kruse Jewelers team.
I have been in retail for 30 years. I started my career in apparel, moved to insurance and then landed a position in St. Cloud with a national jewelry store chain. I worked long hours, weekends and holidays as a manager with that company for five years before accepting a position as the café manager at Barnes & Noble, where I stayed for nine years.
Mike (Kelley) and Melissa (Kruse Kelley) came into the café often. One day Mike was in line, and I was making coffee. When he reached for his white chocolate mocha, I asked him if J.F. Kruse was hiring. That was the start. After interviewing with Melissa and her dad Jim (Kruse), I was hired.
Why did you choose J.F. Kruse and how do you contribute to the company’s success?
After 20 years of employment in corporations, I was ready to be part of a small business where people work together as a team. Every company says “we’re a team,” but the people at J.F. Kruse really are.
I’m happy here. This company is a great fit for me. I like helping people and hearing them talk about how they’ve had a great experience with J.F. Kruse.
I plan on retiring from J.F. Kruse. Because I feel that way, I give 100% every day and do whatever I can to help make the business successful.
Tell us how diamond buying became your role.
Diamond grading and buying are mostly about understanding the four Cs—cut, color, clarity, and carat weight. It’s visual and you need to have an eye for it. But it also takes a specific kind of personality. You need to be able to create relationships and negotiate. I do those things well. I also have buying experience from my time in the apparel industry.
When I started here, we talked about me playing a leadership role because of my sales and management experience. This position seemed like the right fit.
We each have a purpose or a specialty. Deanna (Hennen) specializes in custom design. Kyle (Jackson) is focused on customer experience. Joey (Ruegemer) buys our fashion jewelry. Lisa (Ambrosch) creates connections with the community.
I am the go-to person for diamond buying. But if I’m not available, others here know how to grade and which diamond vendors to call.
You recently went on a diamond buying trip to Antwerp, Belgium. What was your mission?
I was a personal shopper for our customers. It was my job to hand-select the diamond of their dreams. It was exciting, nerve-wracking and a little overwhelming but one of the best experiences of my life. I needed to buy a lot of diamonds in a short period of time. I didn’t want anyone to be disappointed. I didn’t want to fail.
One customer asked me to find her an Asscher cut. These diamonds are very unique, so there aren’t many available. I had one picked out that was 1.25 carats. It was beautiful, but I knew she wanted something bigger.
The dealer had Asscher cut diamonds in 1.5, 1.7 and 1.9 carats, but they were way over her budget. I kept pushing, and we eventually found a 1.4 carat—the only one in the entire city of Antwerp. Although it took a while, I got it for her, and I am so excited to see her reaction. That is why I love my job. I take pride in doing my best for our customers.
What is it like to show customers their diamonds for the first time?
There is something so special about how people light up when you reveal the diamond you’ve handpicked for them. They have a story they can tell, and I’m able to be part of that. It makes me feel so good.
Tell us what you’re doing when you’re not at work.
I work on cars. My wife drives a BMW Z3, and I have a 97’ Trans Am. I’m a little competitive—I game with my brother and kids, and I also play on a J.F. Kruse dodgeball team. I like quiet time, too, and there’s always housework to do.
How would your co-workers describe you?
They would say I’m laid back and I like to have fun—also, that I always get the job done.