For almost two decades, Janice Bowman has helped guide Birmingham residents in picking out some of their most cherished items. Overseeing the bridal registry at Bromberg’s, a family-owned establishment that has been one of the state’s leading purveyors in jewelry and high-end gifts since 1836, Janice’s knowledge is unparalleled when it comes to picking out what will eventually become timeless heirlooms for families. And while she deals with ornate dishware and other fine gifts on a regular basis, Janice is anything but showy when it comes to describing her role at Bromberg’s. She’s modest about what she does, which is a skill that takes years to perfect. We asked Janice to come out from behind the counter to tell us about how she became one of the city’s most learned individuals when it comes to fine china, crystal and gifts. We also got some advice from Janice on how to go about crafting the perfect registry. We’re lucky to have her breadth of knowledge in the Magic City, and we’re thrilled to have Janice as today’s FACE of Birmingham!
When did you start working at Bromberg’s?
After 18 years of working at Parisian, Bromberg’s was the perfect fit. It’s a family-owned establishment where the customers come first — you can’t go wrong with that! I’m going on 20 years working here now. I heard about the job through seeing it in the newspaper. There weren’t any online advertisements back then. When I saw the opening, I thought it just seemed like it would be a good fit for me. When I first started, I was in sales. Back then, we had to hand-write every single gift card. And brides would come in and lay everything out on the table so they could see it — this was way before everything was on computers, so it took a while to do anything that might be a little complicated, like exchanges. A lot has changed since then!
Are you originally from Birmingham?
I came here from Rhode Island, actually. I married a Southerner, and that’s how I ended up down here. He, my husband, was stationed up there during Vietnam. Sometimes I miss living up north, but this definitely feels like home now. For one thing, I don’t miss the snow. Although, I could do without this summer heat.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I come in in the morning and get organized to do the gift cards, and then just help people throughout the day from there. When they come in and register, they’ll pick out different patterns — they’ll pick out different types of china, like everyday china and nicer china. The gift cards will have their name on it and what the gift is. Then, they’ll have a balance in their account, so when they come in after they’re married, we’ll tell them that they have so much money, and they can order what they want. Usually, they’ll have a china pattern, a crystal pattern — those are the most typical things that will go on their card.
How have you seen the bridal registry process change?
It’s all computerized now. So when they come in after the wedding, there’s a detailed print out that shows everything people have gotten them, and we’ll tell them how much credit they have and the name of the person who gave it. When everything changed from being done by hand to being done on the computer, we had to go through some skills training.
But really, it hasn’t changed or affected the relationship we have with our customers. That will always be mostly face to face — we take great pride in getting to know our customers! Having quality interactions with the bride is very important, and it always will be. They’ll always come in, pick several patterns, and we’ll lay everything out so they can see what they like. Over the years, we’ve had a lot of brides come in with their mothers and grandmothers, and they’ll take pictures. It’s an exciting process. Not one bride especially stands out, because they’ve all been special. I’m glad I get to work with them during this special time in their life.
What is your best piece of advice for brides?
Choose a pattern that you will love now and later. And don’t let it sit in the china cabinet! Use it.
Are there any classic patterns that you have seen prevail throughout the years? Tell us about what the process is like when a bride comes in for the first time.
There are certain patterns that will always be classic. Herend is one of them. Haviland is another one. Some of them will just always be classic, and I don’t ever see that changing. There are different patterns for different kinds of people. Some are more contemporary, and then there are some classics. I have an appreciation for all the different styles. It’s all about finding out what the bride wants and what kinds of patterns they like.
A lot of brides, when they come in, they have no idea what they want. This is their first time picking out anything like this. That’s when I kind of take them around and show them different styles so we can figure out their taste together. Sometimes it’s completely different than what the bride would have guessed she would have liked in the beginning! Some come in thinking they’ll like what their mother has, but after looking around, they’ll start to figure out what they actually like. It’s fun to watch. We have lots of lines — 15, maybe 20 in total.
Where’s your favorite place to grab lunch in Birmingham?
I love getting lunch at Olexa’s in Mountain Brook. It’s always good — especially because it’s close. I don’t have a go-to order, because it’s all good. When I’m home, I like to cook. We cook a lot. My husband and I live on Lake Logan Martin, so we like to grill out and enjoy the water.
What are some of your hobbies?
I like to go home and work on the house in the yard. Sometimes we’ll go out on the boat, so that’s always a good time. My husband likes to build furniture — so he’s always getting into something different. He’s made cabinets, bed frames, chairs — a lot!
What are some of your favorite movies?
I like the classics — The Sound of Music and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. You can’t beat the classics.
Describe your perfect weekend.
Really, I just like to go home and relax! It might sound boring, but I do enjoy just working around the house. Also, you can’t go wrong with a nice boat ride and family dinner. That’s just the most relaxing thing to me.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Listen and learn and enjoy each day!
What are three things you can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends?
I really can’t think of anything! That’s a tough one. I guess one thing, I’d have to say, is my dog, Harry. He’s a black retriever mix.
Thank you, Janice! To learn more about Bromberg’s bridal registry, visit brombergsbride.com.
And thank you to Eric and Jamie Gay of Eric & Jamie Photography for these lovely photos.
For more inspiring women in Birmingham, check out our FACES archive, and prepare to be amazed!