By Dawn Kessinger
LIMA – In 1926, Don Jenkins moved to Lima from a farm in Putnam County shortly before the Great Depression hit in 1929. He attended Northwestern Business College and worked two jobs to pay for his education.
“He washed dishes, and he started working in a jewelry store,” said Scott Koenig, Jenkins’s grandson and current owner of Don Jenkins Jeweler. “After he started working at the jewelry store, he liked it. He was also going to school for business, so the two put together inspired him to open his own jewelry store,” Koenig said.
After earning his business degree and working at a few other jewelry stores, Jenkins purchased his own store on High Street in 1945.
“How the name changed from Jenkins to Koenig, is that Grandpa had two girls. My dad, Don Koenig, married one of them, Jackie, and then Grandpa asked Dad to join him (in the family business),” Koenig said.
Don Koenig agreed, started working there in 1955 and became the second generation of family to work at Don Jenkins Jeweler. Koenig retired in 1997, after working 42 years in the family business.
Scott Koenig remembers his earliest jobs were sweeping floors and cleaning the basement at the jewelry store when he was about 10 years old. After graduating in 1984 from Miami University, Koenig worked as a sales representative in Florida for three years before deciding in 1987 that he wanted to return to Lima and learn from his dad and his grandpa more about the family business.
“I was really close to Grandpa. I came home (from Florida) for his 80th birthday – he was still working. Grandpa was in the business for more than 60 years. I wanted to learn the business from him and my dad. I learned how to do repairs and about diamonds from them,” said Koenig, the third generation to own and operate Don Jenkins Jeweler. He has worked in the family business for 28 years.
Currently, as owner of Don Jenkins, Koenig explains some of his job responsibilities as being numerous and wide-ranging, which can sometimes be a challenge.
“I mop the floor. I also buy jewelry and other merchandise, sell it and repair it. All the different responsibilities can be challenging, from doing maintenance to the big diamond you have to repair that day,” Koenig said.
What he enjoys most about his job is building relationships with his customers. Koenig spends time talking with customers, getting to know them, their stories and who they might be shopping for, and he enjoys making suggestions that fit the customers’ needs and preferences.
“The family atmosphere has always kind of been what makes the store. We know 90 percent of the people who come in; it’s a very personable job. We develop a lot of personal relationships over the years. We have third-generation people who come in here, and each of the three generations in their family has bought engagement rings here,” Koenig said.
Product knowledge, added to caring about his customers and taking the time to help them find what they really want, are the qualities that make the family jewelry business unique.
“We know diamonds. We don’t just sell that ring; we know why they cost what they do, and we explain why diamonds cost what they do to our customers,” Koenig said.
Koenig has always been a faithful supporter of the Lima community and has volunteered his time at the Optimist Club, as well as donated to a wide variety of charities, such as Harvest for the Hungry and the Equestrian Therapy Program. He has always been a big supporter of downtown Lima, he said. Koenig is also a sponsor for Limaland race car driver Tony Anderson and the Lima Locos.
In September of 2014, Koenig welcomed Amber Cunningham as an employee at Don Jenkins.
“She’s a vital team player. She handles the Chamilia line (of charms) – all the ordering and selling. She waits on and helps the customers and works with the accounts. She did our window display. She’s learning repairs,” Koenig said.
“There’s a lot to learn. I never in a million years thought there would be this much involved in learning the jewelry business,” said Cunningham.
While engagement rings have always been a big seller at Don Jenkins, Cunningham has noticed watches are popular for graduation gifts. Cunningham also has noticed how Koenig interacts with his customers.
“I’ve gone other places and I’ve shopped for jewelry. For the most part, they very shortly explain it to you. It’s amazing to me how (Koenig) brings customers in here (his office) and they’ll sit down and he has them look at diamonds in the scope. He sits down and explains the color and the clarity,” Cunningham said.
“People walk out and thank him for spending that much time with them and really letting them understand everything about the diamond. People really appreciate that and you don’t get that (kind of service) everywhere,” she said.
Goals for the future include building a website for Don Jenkins Jeweler as well as making sure the public is aware of the additional parking that’s available in the alley to the side of the jewelry store.
“Just keep it how it’s going. Keep learning, keep good people,” Koenig said.