CLINTON — After more than 50 years, Don Bartels is retiring from Don’s Jewelry.
The store was founded on May 1, 1959, as a jewelry store with full watch, clock and jewelry repair available. He took less of a role in the company in 2008, but has still been working at the store. After 56 years, Bartels is officially retiring from Don’s Jewelry.
Prior to owning the store, Bartels spent time serving in the Navy. He was on a destroyer ship heading out of Korea when he discovered a watch that was not working and was thrown away by another man on the ship. According to Bartels, he fixed the watch, and whenever a watch or other jewelry needed to be fixed they always asked Bartels.
“I found out it was missing a stem, so I took a screw and file and filed it until the screw fit into the watch,” he said as he recalled the initial repair. “Then, when other crew members had a watch that wasn’t working they always asked me to fix it.”
After returning home from Korea, Bartels and his then-wife went to work for a farmer. Soon after, thanks to a GI Bill, Bartels was able to attend college to take the next step in his education. He attended Bradley University’s Horological Division. According to Bartels he made such an impression that they had him help teach a class while he was still a student.
The Dean (at Bradley) said I was the best student he ever had,” Bartels said. “He had me teaching classes before I even really knew what I was doing.”
A couple years later, in 1959, Bartels was given the opportunity to open his own store, and he took it. After spending a year working for Kyseth Jewelers in Clarion, Bartels opened his own store a year later. He said this is not something he was planning on doing with his life but is happy with how things have turned out.
“I enjoy it all,” Bartels said. “It is more than I ever expected.”
Even though he is retiring, Bartels does not plan to stop being involved with the business. He says throughout the years at Don’s Jewelry, one of the things he has enjoyed most is interacting with other people. Through all the years, he has found he likes interacting with the customers and the challenge of fixing the jewelry for the customers.
“I enjoy fixing things,” Bartels said. “Whether they be jewelry or clocks or watches, I like the challenge.”
Herald Staff Writer John Rohlf can be reached at email@example.com.