Meet a family that remains faithful to its business philosophy and honest customer service, now through three generations, and see how they’re celebrating an important milestone this year.
Whether it’s a holiday, anniversary or engagement, jewelry is a unique gift that represents milestones for many people.
Mincemoyer Jewelry, 6585 Lexus Dr., Rockford, has had a hand in creating those special moments, and now it celebrates its own milestone.
“To me, this anniversary means 75 years of being part of a great family that works well together and supports each other,” says owner Ray Mincemoyer. “We enjoy making memories for many great people.”
A certified watchmaker, jeweler, diamond importer and customer designer, Mincemoyer operates the business along with his wife, Willa; their two daughters, Christy West and Heather Foster; and his brother, Norm. Two other daughters, Wendy and Stacey, previously worked for the family business before moving out of the area with their families.
The business was founded by Mincemoyer’s father, Richard, who opened a small repair shop in 1938, doing work for other jewelers in town. He closed the shop to join the military in World War II, and reopened for business upon return, in 1945. He eventually moved in with Johnson and Burke, a large jewelry store in downtown Rockford. When they retired, Richard purchased the business.
“My father started with one bench shop and did everything on his own,” Mincemoyer says. “Over the years, we grew from a small store to a larger store, and every step of the way, we modernized and made updates to the business.”
Mincemoyer began following in his father’s footsteps at a young age. He started working at the store at age 16, handling clock and jewelry repair. He briefly pondered a career in the ministry or veterinary medicine, but ultimately chose the family business.
“I watched my father become successful in this business, and I always enjoyed working on watches and designing jewelry,” he says. “Helping my family was important to me.”
He graduated from Gem City College in Quincy, Ill., in 1968 and Gemological Institute of America in 1973. Mincemoyer served in the U.S. Marines for six years before buying the family business from his father in 1977.
After stops on Seventh Street and Fairview Shopping Center, Mincemoyer Jewelry relocated to the Weis Morris Square, off East State Street, in 2004.
The 2,000-square-foot store acknowledges its proud past: a watchmaker’s pump wheel rests in one corner and an antique clock hangs on the wall, as does a Johnson and Burke sign. An enclosed glass case displays Rockford memorabilia, including pocket watches and photos of the Rockford Peaches.
“I was born and raised in Rockford,” Mincemoyer says. “I’ve seen the good and bad take place here. I’m proud to call Rockford home and I want to do whatever I can to support my hometown.”
The store also pays tribute to local military personnel with a collage of photos.
“There aren’t many things out there to remind us that these people are out there serving and protecting our country,” says Mincemoyer, whose father and brother also served in the military. In the past, the store has distributed complementary strands of pearls as a way to thank military members.
Regardless of who walks through the front door, Mincemoyer Jewelry strives to treat all guests the same – a philosophy that was instilled from the beginning. “We run our business on Christian principles and ethics, which means honesty and fairness in products and service to our customers,” says Mincemoyer. “We’re building a trust with customers who are like members of our own family.”
Mincemoyer serves customers from all over the country, such as the gentleman from California who needed a unique pocket watch repaired, or the retirees from Arizona and Florida who bring in their jewelry for repair when they return home to Rockford for a visit. As the business has expanded, so, too, has its local customer base, many of whom are second- and third-generation shoppers.
“Our passion is working with family, following design trends and creating that special moment for customers,” West says. “When it comes to jewelry, my sister and I look for the latest trends and fashions. We’re not just your grandparents’ jewelry store. We’re a store for all generations.”
Mincemoyer is known for its diamonds, rings and watches, including Ernest Borel, Wittnauer, Citizen, Bulova and Mincemoyer’s own brand. Designs have become increasingly intricate, as more diamonds are being incorporated into a variety of pieces. Gold is making a comeback. Vintage watches are also trendy again, as are more-expensive pieces.
“People are buying nicer time pieces again,” Mincemoyer says.
The biggest changes in the industry have come about through computer technology.
“CAD 3-D design has been huge for the industry,” says West. “People can have pieces designed specifically the way they want, and modify them long before they’re ever created. Customers can visualize jewelry before it becomes a one-of-a-kind piece. Before, customers brought in sketches in hopes that we could make a match. Thanks to CAD, the design is perfect down to the smallest detail.”
Mincemoyer Jewelry has succeeded where others haven’t, thanks, in part, to a strong family bond. As did their father, West and Foster both started working at the store as teenagers. Now their young children can be found there as well, in a special playroom in the back offices.
“It’s nice working with my family on a daily basis,” says Foster. “There is great comfort working with people who have integrity and trust amongst each other.”
Working side-by-side, Mincemoyer has seen his children grow and mature both as people and experts in the jewelry industry, even when it means some occasional give and take.
“Like any business, we discuss the best way to do things,” Mincemoyer says. “Sometimes, we try two or three different options. Just because an idea wasn’t used doesn’t mean it’s bad. There’s just another way of accomplishing our goals.”
Despite a sluggish economy, Mincemoyer has thrived by delivering quality customer service. “All Rockford businesses have been impacted by the economy, but people continue to get married and celebrate milestones in life,” West says. “They may just have a smaller budget.”
Mincemoyer Jewelry has been part of plenty of memories over the past 75 years, including marriage proposals that have taken place at the store. The business serves customers whose parents purchased their engagement rings from Mincemoyer many years ago.
But it’s not just celebratory occasions that inspire the Mincemoyer family. Mincemoyer Jewelry also has created custom-made pieces for customers or their loved ones who are living out their final days. “It’s moving, deep and emotional,” West says. “It’s very humbling to be part of what goes on, on the other side of the counter.”
Mincemoyer Jewelry will celebrate its anniversary over the next few months, with a variety of sales, giveaways, promotions and in-store events.
“Seventy-five years is an awesome milestone,” West says. “We’re grateful to our customers for supporting us and helping us to grow into a third-generation business. I’m proud of my dad and uncle, who have worked long hours to continue a legacy that my grandfather started.”