By Joe Bachman
Two days before Christmas, Schmidt’s Jewelry will leave behind a shining legacy.
After opening in 1894 as the first jewelry store in Wisconsin Rapids by J.R. Chapman, in 1921, Edward “E.J.” Schmidt bought out and opened what would become one of the oldest businesses in the area. 95 years later, the doors of Schmidt’s Jewelry will open and close for the final time, and with it decades of lasting memories.
In 1958, Edward’s son, George “Pudge” Schmidt, took the business over, as it was family owned and operated up until 1998. Current jeweler Randy Carpenter, who had worked with George for 22 years, kept the Schmidt’s name and became the owner as of 1998 up until now. For 38 years, Carpenter has continually produced fine jewelry for the city of Wisconsin Rapids, and all from one bench.
Throughout the years, many employees have come and gone, and many memories made, but according to 14 year employee Kim Shepard, it’s the people that made the job fully worth it.
“The customers — I would like some of them to be my neighbors,” said a teary-eyed Shepard. “I’ve actually went to some of the homes because I’ve gotten close to them.”
As with many long-time businesses, nothing can replace the bond created between co-workers, and a bond that serves as family.
“I never had a sister, and these two are my sisters,” said Shepard, in reference to her co-workers Darlene King and Jean Orlowski.
Schmidt’s has a total crew of six people, and the memories pulled tend to be that of the happier occasions, from women looking for new diamonds, or men looking for engagement rings. According to King, everyone that walks in does so with a smile on their face.
“Ninety percent of the time here it’s happy occasions, which is the best part — being a part of happy memories” said King.
After 95 years and thousands of customers served, the ultimate takeaway is the hard work and dedication put into the craft by self-taught jeweler Randy Carpenter.
“Randy is an exceptional jeweler and goldsmith — they trusted him, and he was the best.” said Shepard.
“He was the best in dealing with people, and his workmanship was wonderful.” said King.
The employees of this historic jewelry store would like to invite you to take part and maybe take a piece of history with you before closing. In total, over 100 years of golden memories exist within these walls, all of which are priceless — the most of which comes in the simple act of making others happy.
“This is an awesome place to work, and we’re all like a family,” said Orlowski. “I’m going to miss truly making people happy and having them walk out of here with something that is going to be special to them, and maybe their kids, and their kids’ kids — I’m going to miss seeing Randy wrap Christmas presents most of all.”
Schmidt’s Jewelry is located at 120 E. Grand Ave.