National Jeweler Network

Retail Profiles

7 questions with Karen Goracke

By Michelle Graff

October 16, 2013


Karen Goracke will succeed Susan Jacques at the helm of Omaha, Neb. retailer Borsheims when Jacques leaves to become president and CEO of the Gemological Institute of America at the end of the year.

Omaha, Neb.--When Karen Goracke returned to Borsheims after a several-year hiatus to tend to her three young sons, she had every intention of staying just for the holiday season.

Fast-forward nine years and Goracke is the new president and CEO of Borsheims, taking the reins from outgoing CEO Susan Jacques.

“I was just going to work the Christmas season. It’s been the longest Christmas season ever,” she laughs.

Goracke, a 47-year-old Omaha native, and Borsheims’ Director of Advertising and Marketing Adrienne Fay took the time to speak with National Jeweler about the changing of the guard at the Midwest retailer, the opening of its second location in the Nebraska Crossing Outlets and what it’s like to work at a Warren Buffett-owned company.

National Jeweler: You’ve worked at Borsheims for a total of 25 years, leaving and then returning to the company after a few years with your family. What made you want to come back?

Karen Goracke: I had actually run into Susan (Jacques) at a (college) soccer game, of all places. We had remained friends during that time … she said, why don’t you think about coming back part-time. My youngest (child) was about four and I said, you know, maybe I should. And that’s how that dialogue started.

It’s such a great place to work. Our best asset is our people. I have many people that I consider friends as well as co-workers.

NJ: When you heard that Susan would be taking over the role of interim president and CEO of the GIA, did you have an idea that the CEO post at Borsheims would be opening up and that you were a candidate?

KG: Absolutely not. I was not thinking about it, to be honest, in any great capacity. We were getting ready to open our second store and our focus was really on the opening. In my role as director of merchandising I have a whole other store to outfit with beautiful jewelry. That has been my focus right now.

NJ: How did you find out who would be the next president and CEO?

Adrienne Fay: Everything happened very much like a domino effect. Susan knew the next president and CEO would come internally and she knew it would be someone from Borsheims. She was very confident in her executive team and that it would be someone from her executive team. It was a discussion that they (Jacques and Buffett) had, and Karen was brought in as the conversation was finalized.

NJ: I’ve read that Warren Buffett is “bullish” on women in the workforce and has promoted many women into leadership roles at his companies. What is it like working for Buffett?

KG: I haven’t officially started working with him but I think Borsheims is a great model of how women can succeed in business. I think we have just a great culture here. Six out of the seven (people) on the executive team are women. It’s just very family-oriented. I have the luxury of being able to spend a great amount of time at work and at home. It’s a place that actually promotes that kind of balance. I can’t be really great at my job if I am failing at my personal life.

Susan has been really great at promoting that ideal--making your life work. It can’t be all work. As much as I love work I do need to spend time with my family. That’s so important to me. I am very active with my kids as well as things within the community. It’s really close to perfect as you can get in being a working wife and mom.

NJ: Why did Borsheims opt to make its second store an outlet?

KG: It was a conversation we had had for about two years. It was more a type of conversation around the type of development that would happen. We waited to see the type of luxury retailers that were going to open in this outlet.

But it (the new outlet store) is in the same wheelhouse as what we do. We are a luxury discounter. For us, this is something we still knew and are familiar with: to be able to do deep discounts but have a quality product to offer to customers.

NJ: Does Borsheims have plans for a third location?

KG: Not at this time.

NJ: What was the last book you read?

KG: I just read Divergent, which is more of a teen novel my son was reading. Two of my three boys are also avid readers and a lot of times we’ll try to read (books) simultaneously and have our own book club. This is something we enjoy doing.