When Dodson’s Jewelers closed in February after 131 years of operation, it marked the end of an era for Spokane’s oldest retail store.
But the legacy of jewelry sales at its former downtown Spokane location lives on through Johnson’s Custom Jewelry, which opened last week at 516 W. Riverside Ave.
“They’ve been such a staple in Spokane, and we want to continue service to their customers,” said Travis Johnson, owner of Johnson’s Custom Jewelry.
Penn Fix and wife, Debra Schultz, closed Dodson’s Jewelers to pursue interests in retirement but retained ownership of the building. The couple interviewed several potential tenants before finding a perfect match in Johnson, who was hired in 2015 to do repair work for Dodson’s Jewelers.
“My wife and I were very careful about who we wanted to rent the space to. We knew that a jeweler coming into our space would have an association with Dodson’s,” Fix said. “(Johnson) became a really important part of our success and that was what made us excited about the prospect of renting our space to him. He was very comfortable with our customer base, and they with him. We’re very fortunate to have worked with him.”
Johnson’s Custom Jewelry was established in 2011 as a custom jewelry design and repair shop in the Peyton Building at 10 N. Post St.
Johnson said expansion into the 3,700-square-foot space on Riverside Avenue allows the business to not only repair jewelry but create more custom designs and sell premade pieces from Kirk Kara and Spark Creations.
Johnson, a Spokane native and graduate of the California-based Gemological Institute of America, said creating jewelry is a passion and it’s been his dream to open a retail store.
“It was kind of a perfect opportunity for us to take the chance in expanding,” Johnson said.
Johnson has spent the past two months resurfacing jewelry cases, painting and adding modern touches to the new retail store, which features a separate repair shop with several windows that allow customers to view the jewelry design and restoration process.
“We didn’t want people to walk in and say ‘This looks like Dodson’s,’ ” Johnson said. “We wanted to make it modern and fresh.”
Johnson aims to involve customers in every step of the jewelry making process, which begins with a consultation. Johnson then creates a computer-aided design of the jewelry using 3D modeling software, allowing customers to view renderings of the piece.
Then, Johnson makes a wax model of the jewelry that is cut out on a milling machine. The wax model is cast into gold, platinum or silver.
Johnson said the ability for customers to work directly with a jeweler to custom design a ring and try it on once finished is what sets the store apart from online retailers.
“You don’t get to do that with a computer screen,” he said.
Fix, who is retaining an upstairs office in the retail space, indicated Dodson’s iconic green analog clock dating to the early 1900s will remain in front of the store, but the neon lettering that reads “jewelers” will be replaced with “building.”
Dodson’s was founded by Fix’s great-grandfather, George, in 1887. Since then, the jewelry store has been at three downtown sites. Dodson’s initially opened in the Crescent Block, but when the Great Spokane Fire destroyed the building in 1889, it moved to the Mohawk Building. The jewelry store moved to its Riverside Avenue location in the late 1980s.
Fix said Johnson’s remodel of the former Dodson’s Jewelers store is remarkable.
“If someone who had been shopping at Dodson’s came in, you wouldn’t really recognize it. But it’s a good thing. While there is certainly a legacy here of sorts, the design allows Travis to bring about his own vision,” he said. “It’s nice to pass the torch on to someone like Travis, who has the qualities we think are important – professionalism, honesty and understanding of quality.”
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