Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Downtown jewelry store closes

- By Joanne Paulson

On Saturday, Ken Olson will close the glass jewelry display cases for the last time.

By the end of the day, the selection of sparkling diamond rings, gold chains and watches will likely have dwindled to almost nothing, after the last sale at Family Jewellers on Second Avenue.

Olson has spent 62 years in jewelry retail sales and turns 82 in August. It’s fair to say he has earned retirement.

“I’ve really enjoyed it,” said Olson of his business life. “Maybe it’s kept my health good.

“You meet a lot of nice people — that’s kept me going.”

Family Jewellers is the business Olson shared with his sons Larry, a watchmaker, and Brent, a goldsmith, for 15 years.

Olson got his start with Bateman Jewellers, where he worked for 10 years. He and his twin brother, Keith, then went out on their own. They operated K&K Olson Jewellers on 23rd Street for 37 years before deciding to sell.

Ken Olson attempted retirement for four years but came back into the industry with Family Jewellers in 1994.

“I said I want no part of the store — it’s Larry and Brent’s,” said Olson. But he was there just the same, every week, tak- ing Tuesdays and Fridays off.

The Olson jewelry stores were always family stores. At K&K Olson, Ken’s wife, Jean, and Keith’s wife, Betty, often pitched in, as did other members of the family. They made it a successful enterprise.

“We had terrific business, from the smallest store in the city,” recalled Olson. “We worked together as a team.”

During those days, the K&K name was as synonymous with baseball as it was with jewelry. The Olsons sponsored two well-known ball teams for many years.

When they sold K&K Olson Jewellers, the purchaser was as interested in the name as he was in the store, said Olson.

“I should never have sold the K&K name,” he said. At the time, he did not intend to go back into business.

But reopen he did, with Larry and Brent, choosing Family Jewellers for the new store’s name. It seemed the most appropriat­e, he notes.

The jewelry business has not changed much in his 62 years in it, he said — except for timepieces.

“It was all wind-up watches when I started,” said Olson. “Today, they’re all quartz. It’s quite a big change in the watch repairs; you’re mostly just putting batteries in.”

But a diamond is a diamond and life events never change.

“(The jewelry business) is just as strong as it’s ever been. There’s always anniversar­ies and weddings coming up,” he said.

Ken’s sons have not decided what they will do next. Having worked for 15 years with just one week off, they’re looking forward to taking a holiday. Then, they’ll decide what the future holds.

As for Ken Olson, he plans to just relax and take it easy — after the end of the month, when the Olsons’ lease officially expires. It will take some time to clean out the furnishing­s and say goodbye to the store at 154 Second Ave. North.

Olson says most of the memories are good ones, although some will be hard. Next week, it will be 12 years ago that Keith died.

He also recalls a few light-fingered folks who popped in not to shop but to rob. Once, a so-called customer purchased a man’s ring with a rubbery cheque. By coincidenc­e, Olson encountere­d the man at the King George Hotel the next night. He looked at the man’s finger bearing the ring and told him he knew the cheque had bounced. Then, he grabbed the ring and slid it right off his finger.

Olson couldn’t believe it. “I got my ring back,” he said, still marvelling.

Most of all, though, he’ll remember the great customers and friends who so often came to visit throughout his six-decade career.

 ?? —SP Photo by Richard Marjan ?? Larry (from left), Brent and Ken Olson are pictured at Family Jewellers, which will close on Saturday
—SP Photo by Richard Marjan Larry (from left), Brent and Ken Olson are pictured at Family Jewellers, which will close on Saturday

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