Life renewed at family business
A tragedy that would typically cause a store to close for good has had the opposite effect on the Paffrath family, owners of Paffrath Jewelers in Owatonna. They have pulled together to overcome an untimely death and are stronger than ever.
Callan Paffrath represents the fourth generation to be involved in the store. Callan has many fond memories of growing up in the store.
“I remember coming into the store during the Christmas season when I was really little and getting tips from the customers for wrapping their Christmas presents for them… I remember sitting behind the counter and pretending to polish things when he (employee Joel Earls) was actually polishing things… I remember sitting by the engraving machine and throwing the disks around when I shouldn’t have been… I remember taking home Christmas presents for my mother when I shouldn’t have,” Callan recalled.
Earls has been an employee of the store since 1991 and recalled the time when Callan took home a $4,000 gift from the store to give to her mother for Christmas. It happened to be a gift that belonged to a customer and her father, Ted, was panicking because he couldn’t find it. On Christmas morning she brought it out for her mother to unwrap and what was once a scary situation turned into a funny story.
The store originated in Willmar, Minnesota, in 1926 and has been in Owatonna since the 1970s. The store has been at its current location on Bridge Street next to Torey’s Restaurant & Bar for 15 years.
Callan knew she wanted to pursue a career in retail and one day return to take the business over from her father. She attended the University of Wisconsin-Stout, pursuing a degree in retail merchandising, and after graduation went to work at Jared-Galleria of Jewelry in Burnsville because Ted wanted her to get some outside experience.
Callan was only there for about a year when she had to come back home to take on the business after her father passed away. A little over a year and a half ago, Ted was cutting down a tree when part of the tree he was cutting fell on top of him and broke his neck.
“My dad was our center of gravity, so it kind of uprooted us and we all had to learn how to be a family again, but we did and we are definitely stronger than we have ever been before,” Callan said. “As a store it was very hard. Personally I didn’t understand how much the community loved him so it was hard stepping into such big shoes, but he prepared me my whole life for this, and I didn’t even know it.”
Callan says they have received an outpouring of support from the community and had many customers thank them for remaining strong and retaining the integrity of the store and the family’s legacy.
“It used to be hard every day, but I have found therapy in being in the store every day because I hear different stories. I hear things about my dad that I never knew all the time and I’ve learned to just smile and laugh about it, be happy and live in his memories,” Callan said.
Callan says she still has some sad days but the family copes by communicating, loving and smiling because they are all still around to support each other.
Callan’s two main focuses for the store are custom design and bridal jewelry. By the end of the month they will have a new line called Bridal Bells, making them have one of the largest bridal selections in southern Minnesota.
“Our purpose is to really make that connection with the customer and to really make it a lifelong relationship. We are not here just to sell you the most expensive thing in the store. I want to make sure that you feel like you got what is best for you and your relationship,” Callan said.
The store also has on site repair, sells Pandora jewelry and various other jewelry including birthstone jewelry, anniversary rings, baby merchandise, diamond earrings, bracelets and religious jewelry.
Callan feels the one thing that sets their store apart from others is their approachability.
“We are extremely outdoorsy down to earth people. You can sit here and talk to Joel about dog training, you can talk to me about motorcycles… you can talk to us about anything it doesn’t even have to be about jewelry. We are a part of the community and we have been here all our lives. We don’t come here and try to be somebody that we are not,” Callan said. “We have a lot of heart behind the things we sell. We are trying to make you happy, we are not trying to make you buy something that you don’t need.”
Callan enjoys continuing her family’s legacy because she not only gets to be creative, but also gets to hear stories from all the customers.
“I get to be a part of something that is so much bigger than myself. I am lucky to say that I love coming to work every day, I love who I work with, I love what I do and not many people can say that,” she said. “It is a really special feeling to be able to say that I am fourth generation in a Jewelry store.”
Callan’s hope for the future is that they continue to be successful and grow over the years with the hopes of one day expanding to be even bigger, possibly a stand-alone store.