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Rada Burdeen is affected more than most by the ongoing war in Ukraine, having been born in the capital Kiev.
Along with her parents, she fled the city as a child and the family arrived in the United States as refugees.
Luckily so for Matt Burdeen, or he might never have met his wife and business partner.
Matt dropped out of college in 1994 to work in his family’s mom-and-pop jeweler, and later bought the business in 2010.
In the early days, Burdeen’s carried no watches and persuading Swiss watch brands to work with them took chutzpah and persistence.
Burdeen’s almost bluffed its way to its first deal with Breitling, remembers Matt: “We walked over to the Breitling suite in Las Vegas, my father knocked on the door and said, ‘We are ready to take Breitling’.
Marie Bodman laughed and said ‘that’s not how this works’, but she did agree to visit our small shop in a strip mall, next to a grocery store. I think she was impressed with our passion and was willing to take a chance on us.”
To win over the Richemont brands took a little more persuading, and Burdeen’s had to increase its physical footprint in the competitive Chicago market before they would come on board.
Today, the business runs adjacent boutiques for Richemont’s A. Lange & Söhne, IWC and Panerai in the courtyard of the Waldorf Astoria in downtown Chicago, and a vast multi-brand showroom in Buffalo Grove, a suburban area 30 miles northwest of the city center.
Most recently, Burdeen’s opened a Vacheron Constantin boutique on Chicago’s prestigious Michigan Avenue; a move Matt describes as the biggest achievement of the past 12 months.
“We have put together a rock-star staff there and they are outperforming our expectations,” he says.
After such dramatic expansion, the year ahead is more about catching up with the important infrastructure, technical and operational work that is needed to be successful in today’s watch market.
That might leave a little for time for Matt and Rada to enjoy their favorite pastimes. “I am an avid cook, and Rada and I love to travel,” shares Matt.
“We are also passionate about mountaineering and hiking, and Rada loves her philanthropic work.”