Jewelry store owners often say customers are welcomed into their store as if it were the retailer’s home – with similar warmth, hospitality and pleasant surroundings. Greg and Kathy Fisher, owners of Coshocton, Ohio-based G. A. Fisher Diamond Jewelers, take this retailing approach one step further with a house built in the early 1800s converted into a jewelry store.
“It was a private residence for many years,” says Greg. “Then it was converted into the Village post office, and back to being a private residence. In July 1991, when my wife and I purchased it, the house was run-down. Over the course of the next five months we were able to open just in time for the holiday season on November 22.”
There’s no greater satisfaction than watching a renovation plan come to fruition – from concept to construction – especially when it’s a massive restoration project for a key historical structure like a town’s old post office.
“The biggest projects to tackle were getting state and local approval for a historic building and using an architect to finalize the structure,” says Alison (Fisher) Flinner, Gen 3.0 of the Fisher family of jewelers. “It was a complete gut job right down to the framework. To maintain historical preservation we had to keep the windows, beams, cedar siding, [exterior] stone and landscaping.”
“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme,” Mark Twain said often during his life. Taking one of America’s most noted writers at his word, the lines of history chronicling the Fisher family, their jewelry store and the town of Coshocton would rhyme together like poetry.
The Fisher family’s start in the watchmaking trade began in 1941 when Greg’s father, Jim Fisher was drafted into the US Army during World War II. With an apprenticeship in machine shops, the Army sent Jim to watchmaking school in Elgin, Illinois. From there he was sent to France to work in an ordinance maintenance company where he worked on watches and scopes during the war.
After the war, Jim worked in two jewelry stores, starting the jewelry retail tradition in 1945 till 1956 doing watch and jewelry repairs. He started in his home and a year later opened his own store in downtown Fredricktown.
Like many incoming generations, Greg worked in his father’s store doing various jobs while learning the trade. Thirteen years later his father died suddenly when Greg was a senior in high school. Then his mother had to liquidate the family business to pay the bills.
Greg kept the family tradition going when he entered Gem City College in Quincy, Illinois. Completed courses included hand engraving, watch and jewelry repair, as well as gemstone setting. For the next 20 years, Greg worked at three jewelry stores in Ohio. When Greg turned 40, he decided to go out on his own in Coshocton.
“Kathy grew up on a purebred beef farm in Fredericktown, which is about 60 miles west of Coshocton,” says Greg. “I liked Coshocton because it was a heavily traveled tourist area for larger cities. There was potential to attract customers from neighboring large cities, tourist and local business we could garner.”
Coshocton has its own unique history. In 1830, two prominent businessmen petitioned the state legislature to rename the village Roscoe in honor of William Roscoe, a well-known English author and abolitionist.
The Ohio and Erie Canal came and turned Roscoe from a sleepy hamlet into a thriving port. In its heyday, Roscoe was the fourth largest wheat port on the canal. The great flood of 1913 ended the canal system and with it Roscoe’s prosperity.
In the 1960s, Roscoe began a decades-long effort to restore and maintain the town’s place in American history. When Greg and Kathy converted an old house/post office into a jewelry store, their efforts became a small part of this effort.
In the summer of 1991, Greg and Kathy were raising three young children. Greg’s history in long-running jewelry stores not only brought essential retail jeweler experiences to the table, but with it a profound respect for tradition and what it takes to maintain longevity in retail – superlative customer services.
Kathy took many business courses in high school and worked in banking upon graduation. Financing the historic home restoration and the state permits were nettling but necessary tasks to get the project started. Kathy’s skill set shone in these developmental months of their dream jewelry store.
The big job was the restoration and the building characteristics that had to be maintained according to strict historical preservation laws. The gamble was not knowing the depth and breadth of a project until it got underway. Working from the structure’s original framework, the interior began to take shape.
During the restoration and renovations, Greg and Kathy needed to integrate modern amenities and features so they could be competitive as a modern jewelry store with a historic frame. “We are a full service jewelry store which includes equipment needed for jewelry repairs and jewelry making,” says Greg. “Updated electrical work was needed.”
By fall of that year, the store was taking shape. The goal of opening in time for Christmas, however, was looming. Greg and Kathy felt the pressure and put in long days and weekends working with contractors to meet their late November goal. There were days when it seemed all that was holding their dream store together was drywall screws and prayer.
Strong in their faith, Greg and Kathy were regular attendees at their local church. Their daughter Alison recalls a day when church folk came to the rescue. “I remember as a girl when about 15 men and their wives from our church came to help us,” says Alison. “They completed some finish work, brought dinner for everyone and stayed till midnight working. It takes a community to do something like this.”
Over time the store name was changed from House of G. A. Fisher to its current moniker. Today, Greg fervently enjoys being his own boss in a store with unique warmth and charm, patronized by loyal customers and visiting tourists. Kathy continues to enjoy the homey feel of their store with lots of windows, handmade oak showcases, a warm interior color palette and gardens outside.
Of course the best part of Greg and Kathy’s dream store is keeping it going for another generation, led by Alison and her husband Jeff, along with a supportive team of jewelers and staffers.