Olson Jewelers, Wahpeton, is the continuation of a business that started in 1882. It is only 13 years younger than Wahpeton itself, established in 1869.
Despite its 136 years in business, Olson Jewelers is set to close its doors. The last day of business is Saturday, Dec. 29.
“I’ve been here 47 years,” said owner Ed Olson, 66. “We’d like to do some traveling while we’re still healthy.”
Olson Jewelers is for sale, Olson continued. He’d be happy to pass the business along, but doesn’t have a planned successor.
“It might happen that somebody would contact me. Absolutely, I’d be okay with selling the business. But right now, we’re just liquidating and selling what we have,” Olson said.
Ed Olson succeeded his father Jack and grandfather Melvin as owner of Olson Jewelers. The business celebrated its quasquicentennial, or 125th anniversary, in 2007.
What was then Lacy’s Jewelry Store opened on the 100 block of Dakota Avenue in 1882. It was owned by George Lacy, who moved the store to 506 Dakota Ave. just two years later.
“The Olsons still have the original safe and ledger from Lacy’s,” the Fargo Forum reported in 2007. “Among the papers is one documenting payment in oats, hay and $5 that Lacy received for a watch, chain and charm in 1882.”
Melvin Olson began working for Lacy in 1916. He’d go on to buy the jewelry store in 1942, rebuild it in 1955 and change the name to Olson Jewelers.
Jack Olson began working for his father in 1945. Ed Olson began working for his father in 1971.
“A third-generation jeweler,” Ed Olson remarked. “You don’t see that often. I learned practically everything from those two. Even just talking to my grandfather, learning about history and World War I (which Melvin Olson fought in). It was a fun time.”
The Olson men were all watchmakers.
“If I ran into a problem with a watch, they always had a trick to fix it. There were always the tricks of the trade to learn,” Ed Olson continued.
Working on watches has become a lost art. In its prime, Olson remembered, he would work on up to 45 watches a day. That included cleaning, oiling, regulating and displaying them.
“That’s just about done now,” Olson said. “Now you have to send out to companies that hire watchmakers. I could clean a watch for $4.75. Today it’s worth $200.”
Olson Jewelers’ merchandise includes watches and jewelry, but there’s more in the store.
“We’ve got the biggest selection we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Olson said. “It’s not just personal jewelry, but frames, watches, baby gifts, glassware and silver services.”
Olson and his wife Sandy expect to see a steady stream of customers, friends and neighbors as the store closure nears.
“We’ve been closed on Saturdays for a long time,” he said. “Now we’re adding Saturday hours through the sale.”
Past and present Twin Towns Area residents are a little shocked about Olson Jewelers’ closure. Olson admits he’s a little shocked, too.
“You reach a point when it’s time to close,” he said. “I started thinking about this in January. I knew the end of the year would make sense.”
Over a dozen years ago, in April 2006, Wendell Langendorfer documented over 500 Wahpeton businesses and establishments that had closed. Olson is unsure if Olson Jewelers will end up on that list, but he knows he’s not going to continue as a business owner.
“Something is changing,” Olson added.
Olson Jewelers is located at 506 Dakota Ave. in Wahpeton.