MICHIGAN CITY – After four generations and 108 years, the Erickson family is stepping down from serving Michigan City and surrounding areas with its jewelry expertise, knowledge and customer service.
At the end of the month, Erickson Jewelers at 1712 U.S. 20 in Evergreen Plaza, will close its doors for good.
“We want to thank everyone for supporting us over these years,” owner Bob Erickson said. “We had so many good, local customers over the years.”
“The thing we’ll miss the most about our business is our customers," Bob’s son, Kyle Erickson, said. "We have a close relationship with them. Being that we are third- and fourth-generation owners, we have third- and fourth-generation customers. We’ve had people in tears in the store.”
“And lots of hugs,” Bob added.
“One customer brought in cookies,” Kyle said, explaining that the holiday season at the store always included plenty of drop-in gifts from patrons.
Many of Erickson’s customers are seniors, who, at this stage in their lives, aren’t making as many jewelry purchases; many have also passed away. Younger generations aren’t as interested in fine jewelry pieces as their parents and grandparents, and there’s many more competing factors for their disposable dollars, Kyle said.
“We’ve seen a generational gap as far as buying jewelry,” he said.
Couple this with the economic climate and changes in the jewelry industry, including the prevalence of online sales, and the timing was right to close the business, which started with Bob’s grandfather, John Erickson.
“His pastor noticed him in a pool hall one day,” Bob said. “He told him he knew of someone who was looking to fill a position.”
John took the advice and, at the age of 18 in 1911, began as a clerk at L.F. Dresser, a jeweler in downtown Michigan City.
It wasn’t long before he became a partner/manager of Olsen & Ebann in a building that still stands today at the corner of Franklin and 6th streets. It was one of five stores in the region around the tip of Lake Michigan and as far as Rockford, Illinois. He retired in 1959, the same year the store was bought out by Zales Jewelers.
John’s son, Ken, managed the Zales store until he opened his own franchise, Orange Blossom Jewelers at 603 Franklin St. in 1969. Then, five years later, the name was changed to Erickson Jewelers when the store moved to Dunes Plaza. In 2012, Erickson Jewelers moved to its current location in Evergreen Plaza.
In addition to Bob and his son, Kyle, who’s been working full-time at the store, there’s Bob’s sister, Nancy Erickson. She was employed there many years before she retired eight years ago and has come back to help with closing sales.
And, Simmi Johnson, who worked for two decades for the Ericksons, retired in March. Considered part of the family, she and Bob have known each other since they were in the first grade. Bob’s daughter, Kala Erickson, also helped out seasonally.
Longtime customer Debbie Hellenga of La Porte is one customer who stopped into the store with farewell wishes.
“I first started waiting on Ken when I worked at the bank,” she said. "My wedding rings were purchased here along with all my treasured pieces. You couldn’t ask for kinder service. They will be missed for sure. Bob and Kyle didn’t fall far from the tree. The personal service you could get can never be matched.”
She recalled the Ericksons suggesting a special necklace that pearl could be added to one by one over the years. She and her husband gave a pearl to their daughter, now Stephanie Waninger, on her first birthday. They continued the tradition each year on her birthday and finished it off on her wedding day so she could wear it for the momentous occasion.
Bob fondly recalled one customer in about 1975-76 who came straight from Italy and wasn’t able to speak English. He was so appreciative that Ken gave him credit so he could purchase an engagement ring for his fiancée.
“He wanted his bride to have the best,” Bob said. “They and their children are still good customers to this day.”
Bob and Kyle said the store has a great selection of diamonds, emeralds, rubies, pearls and 14 karat gold jewelry left for discounts of 40-70 percent off – all sales final with no exchanges or returns.
Customers may still purchase watch batteries, and Erickson’s is still making repairs on items previously purchased. The staff is still conducting complimentary jewelry cleanings and inspections.
Several customers have inquired where to go sales, repairs and appraisals once Erickson Jewelers closes. Bob said the staff are referring them to locally-owned Ashley’s Jewelry by Design in Chesterton.
Hours for the closing are Monday-Friday 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturdays 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call 219-872-6565.