ST. CHARLES – A lot has changed on Main Street in St. Charles during the last 30 years, but through it all, Goldmine Jewelers has remained a staple retailer.
Jay Montgomery has run the business with his wife, Lynn, since Jan. 1, 1983. Back then, yellow gold engagement rings with a marquise diamond cut were all the rage. Today, most women are looking for white gold engagement rings with round or princess diamond cuts. And the prices have changed dramatically, Montgomery said.
When his business first opened, he said, an ounce of gold was worth $350. Today, it has skyrocketed to $1,890 per ounce. The price of gems also has increased.
Other than styles and prices, Montgomery has seen the majority of Main Street businesses go from retail to bars and restaurants. He said back in 1983, it was socially acceptable for people to come into the store smoking a cigarette. Today, it’s more common for people to bring their pets along shopping – something he said people back in 1983 generally didn’t do.
Montgomery said his area code used to be 312, and he operated his business without the use of a cellphone, fax machine or computer at first. That’s all changed – and technology has also changed the way customers shop, he said.
“It’s common for people to take photos with their phones and email them to their friends,” he said. “Even with all the changes in technology, it still goes back to the basics of quality service, a quality product and a fair price.”
That’s been Montgomery’s business plan since day one. Today, he’s selling engagement rings to the children of the couples he sold engagement rings to decades ago. He said 30 years ago, it was more common for couples in their 20s to get engaged.
He said these days, couples tend to be in their 30s and are a little more educated about the products they’re looking for, thanks to the Internet.
Montgomery said Goldmine Jewelers was his and his wife’s first and only business venture. He said as soon as they returned from their honeymoon, they began searching for a place to open shop. Their search took them from Rockford to Crystal Lake, but he said the population and demographics in St. Charles were just right.
He said it’s still uncommon today for a jewelry store to offer on-site repairs and custom jewelry work like Goldmine Jewelers does. Montgomery said he also buys old gold and silver, and does appraisals on site. Since the recession hit, he’s noticed more estate jewelry surfacing at auctions, which has become a much larger portion of his business.
He said the recession didn’t hamper his business like it did others, largely because most couples didn’t put off getting engaged.
“My industry, we’re referred to as the last of the independents. ... We sell a blind item – something you can’t compare,” he said. “Because of that, most jewelers are still successful. We’ve had very few business casualties in the recession compared to others.”
Celebrating a milestone
To celebrate 30 years in business, Goldmine Jewelers, 213 W. Main St., St. Charles, is having a 30-percent off sale through Jan. 1. For more information, call 630-377-4653.