Nelson’s Jewelers, a family-operated business with big-city services, celebrates 50 years in Brownsburg
By Gus Pearcy
Jeff Nelson describes himself as a conservative man in an elaborate business. The owner and operator of Nelson’s Jewelers, Brownsburg, has had a very conservative approach to running his family business which will celebrate its 50th anniversary this month. Case in point: Jeff estimates that the store has only held four sales in the 50 years of business. Nelson saves the extravagance for his custom designed pieces using a variety of stones. Over the years, Nelson’s Jewelers has seen some pretty interesting pieces. The family has sold a 10 carat diamond, an 8 carat sky blue sapphire, and a 19 carat tourmaline gem. Fifty years affords some pretty decent contacts in whatever industry. Jeff says he can get just about any type of stone in about 48 hours.
Jeff ’s parents, Phil and Kay Nelson, founded the business on May 15, 1958. Phil was a watchmaker working for a jeweler in Crawfordsville. On a trip to Indy for parts, Phil saw Tucker’s Jewelry on U.S. 136.
“He stopped in and asked the gentleman if he ever considered selling it,” Jeff said. “He said, ‘Absolutely, I’m sick of this place.’”
Originally, a watch repair place that sold jewelry, Phil and Kay set the stage for Nelson’s to become a fine jeweler, offering the best product and service at a fair price.
Nelson’s moved into the current space in 1964 when Phil purchased an old pool hall. In 1979, the family hired an architect to redesign the store. The resulting floor plan won some national awards and remains today.
One of three boys and a girl, Jeff was the oldest. A 1973 grad of Brownsburg High School, he worked in the store plenty. At first he resisted taking over the family business, but during a Christmas layoff at Allison’s, he helped out around the store and decided that it was what he wanted to do.
“I’ll be forever thankful to General Motors,” he said, “because I went back to work there to save the money to go to gemology school.”
At the Gemological Institute of America in Santa Monica, Calif., Nelson learned to love precious stones.
Jeff purchased the store in 1998 to allow his parents to move to Bonita Springs, Fla. where they are still enjoying retirement. Jeff and his wife Ginger enjoy golf and deep sea fishing.
In the early days of the enterprise, Phil made a choice to sell more jewelry because quartz watches were making his skills obsolete. He was mentored by a traveling representative of a diamond cutting firm. This gentleman guided Phil to decide what kind of jewelry store he was going to be.
“He said, ‘Now Phil, you got to decide what kind of store you want to be,’” Jeff said. “He says, ‘There are promotional stores. There are stores that handle below-average jewelry or there are fine stores.’ That’s the way my father decided he wanted to go.”
The philosophy and strategy of selling fine jewelry has stuck with his son. When asked to describe his store in one word, Jeff Nelson says, “better.”
“We want to handle better diamonds,” he said. “We want to handle better colored stones. We want to have better designs and better made mountings. We want to have better salespeople.”
Nelson’s Jewelers has the pride of a family-operated business with big city services. Jeff encourages his employees to treat customers like they were guests in their home. He says he is a big believer in the Golden Rule.
The future is unclear to Jeff. For now, he wants to continue to offer a “better” product and service.