At over 130 years of age, it seems there's always been a Reusch Jewelers in Northern Michigan. We are the oldest family owned and operated jewelry store in Michigan, as recognized by Jewelers of America. We are a fourth generation business that has deep roots in the communities that we have the pleasure to serve. The people of Northern Michigan are our source of inspiration and dedication, and we do our best to give back to the communities and people of our wonderful little part of the world.
Jacob Frederick Reusch started as a jeweler's apprentice in Ionia, Michigan, in the year 1844, for $1.50 a week. After a year , his pay was increased to $6.00 a week, and by the time he moved to Petoskey in 1885, he was making $18.00 a week, considered a fabulous wage for that time.
Jacob came to work as a watch maker for Will Searle, at the Little Will Jewelry Store on Lake Street, and was the official time keeper and watch inspector for the railroads in the area, the Pere Marquette, and later the C & O. His job was to make sure that all of the station clocks between Traverse City and Petoskey were synchronized and that all of the employees had accurate watches. In those days, this meant that Jacob would regularly ride the rails and check and maintain the clocks at the stations, and he would also maintain and certify the pocket watches of the railroad employees. Railroad employees were required to have their watches regularly maintained for accuracy. Each crew member of the trains was required to carry a card signed at least once a week by the inspector. Twice each year an inspection was made of all depot clocks at all of the depots. This was a very important job, since accurate timekeeping prevented trains from colliding with each other. Today we have highly accurate watches, but the old grandfather that Jacob used to regulate all of the railroad watches and clocks still keeps near-perfect time every day in our store today, as it has every day for the past 160+ years.
Jacob purchased The Little Will Jewelry Store when the owner retired, and in 1926, shortly after his graduation, Fred Reusch joined his father in the family business. The store at that time was on the corner of Lake and Howard, where Cutlers is now.
As was customary in the early days of the jewelry trade, Fred gained most of his knowledge and training by learning from his father. He spent many hours looking over his father's shoulder as a boy. Fred remembers repairing his first watch as an apprentice. He had decided to sort out the pieces as he dismantled it, and keep them in order so he could put it back together easier. His boss saw this and with a swipe of his hand jumbled all the parts. "He told me that that was no way to learn to repair a watch, that I should memorize where the parts went and not put them in a row along the work bench," Fred chuckled. "I never forgot that lesson."
One of the largest repair jobs that Fred and Jacob handled was in the early 1930s when the town clock in the old court house refused to work. It was necessary to take the clock works apart and, as the size of the pieces were so great, jewelers' tools were hardly enough. Tools were borrowed from the plumbing department of the Bremmeyr-Bain Hardware store. One of the bronze shafts had become pitted and flat on one side. It was built up and machined by Leonard Paige, in his blacksmith shop. In this case it was no joke that a timepiece had been repaired by a plumber and a blacksmith.
In 1933, during the depression, Fred decided to try his wings at other jobs. But his real desire to be in the jewelry business was ever present in his mind. In 1936, the senior Mr. Reusch moved his jewelry store to its present location at 427 E. Mitchell in Petoskey. As Jacob's business flourished, the demands of running the store and repair shop required another pair of hands. Fred returned in 1947 to f ill that need. He remained an employee until his father's death in 1951, when he assumed the operation and ownership of the business.
The early 1950s saw the addition of Lola Reusch, Fred's wife, as an apprentice with the company. During that period, the younger members of the Reusch family, John and Mary, took an increasing interest in the business. John joined the firm in 1965 after serving a tour in the Air Force. His ever-increasing desire for knowledge in the field of gemology prompted him to begin home study courses through the Gemological Institute of America during the late 1960s. John became one of the first jewelers in the state to earn the title Graduate Gemologist.
In 1970, John started in business on his own with the acquisition of a jewelry store in nearby Charlevoix, and the start of a gift operation in conjunction with the Petoskey jewelry store. In 1974 Harold Travis contacted John Reusch with an offer that he could not refuse. Harold and his wife Margaret wanted to sell their jewelry store and retire after many years of serving the Cheboygan community with fine jewelry products and services.
Even the fire across the street at the J C Penney building in Cheboygan did not slow up the change of ownership which occurred in early April of 1975. Reusch Jewelers had many friends already in Cheboygan through their parent store in Petoskey. This helped the business grow quickly and in a few years expand into the Budget Shop which had been their neighbor in the old Dalton Hotel building. Fred retired in May of 1978, selling the Petoskey store to John, ensuring that the Reusch name would continue into the next century of business.
Under the enthusiastic direction of John, the company grew to eight stores by the late 1980s. Reusch Jewelers was proud to serve customers in the Northern Michigan communities of Petoskey, Gaylord, Cheboygan, Cadillac, Mt. Pleasant, Manistee, Ludington, and Big Rapids.
With the 1990's came the need to trim this expansion, and the company sold its locations in Cadillac, Mt. Pleasant, and Big Rapids. The remaining five locations are strong members of the communities in which they serve.
John's son, Vance, after many years at "the bench", as an experienced goldsmith and diamond setter, took over the management of the Cheboygan store in 1993. Vance also realized the importance of education, began taking GIA courses, and earned the title of Graduate Gemologist.
As John neared his retirement goal, Vance gradually assumed many of his father's responsibilities. Things moved along quickly, and plans were formed for Vance to purchase the Cheboygan and Gaylord locations in January of 1999. As plans often do, however, these plans changed when the restaurant next door to the jewelry store burned.
On the afternoon of August 18, 1998, John Reusch was just finishing some office work in the upstairs office of the jewelry store, and getting ready to fix some supper when Vance called. "Dad, you had better get ready to leave, Pappas' Restaurant is on fire." The fire crews worked successfully to contain the blaze to the restaurant, and the Reusch's left that night believing that their jewelry store had been spared.
They were awakened the next morning however by the fire engine sirens. The fire had rekindled in the roof of the jewelry store in the early morning hours, and ten years of John's hard work, remodeling, and memories came to an end. John had spent the last decade building and remodeling the apartment home as a hobby. He had done virtually all of the designing and work himself, and had completed the last room just months before the fire.
With Christmas fast approaching and no jewelry store, the Reusch's needed to act fast. Vance purchased a building just two doors from the original location, and quickly began remodeling the location while refurbishing everything that could be salvaged from the old location. Two months of hard work later, and Reusch Jewelers was once again open for business in downtown Cheboygan with Vance at the helm.
In July of 2002, Vance took ownership of the Petoskey location. The Petoskey store is the original Reusch Jewelers' location, with a long history of involvement in the community.
Vance, along with the rest of his energetic staff, have brought some fresh new energy into the store. If you haven't stopped in lately, you'll be sure to see some exciting new lines of jewelry. We now have several new designer lines as well as some "updated" classics. Stop by, and speak with any one of our experienced staff for expert help with your jewelry needs. Whatever you are looking for in diamonds, gold, and colored gemstones, you're sure to find it at Reusch Jewelers.
We've seen countless changes since Jacob Reusch came to Petoskey in 1885, but we've also made sure that at least one thing never changes, and that is our unfailing dedication to Jacob's founding principles of Integrity, Quality, and Service.