Harrison Jewelers, 6032 Roosevelt Road, has been a part of the community since the store first opened in Oak Park in 1970. In addition to purchasing new jewelry, people trusted Harrison Jewelers to repair prized possessions and family heirlooms. Now, after 51 years in Oak Park, the shop has officially closed, and COVID-19 made its last year in business a difficult one.
“It was just kind of like, ‘OK, well things are bad right now; I don’t know that it’s going to get better and I’m getting older, so maybe it’s time to say goodbye,'” said owner Jack Klein.
Founded by married couple Gene and Philomena Caselli, Harrison Jewelers first opened in Chicago in 1947. Their son, and Klein’s dear friend, Nick Caselli and his wife JoAnn took over the family business. Klein joined Harrison Jewelers in 1975, a handful of years after the shop opened in Oak Park.
“I really loved that little store,” said Klein. “It was my home away from home.”
In 1999, Klein assumed ownership with business partner Barry Kloft, who retired in 2014. Klein has manned the enterprise ever since.
The pandemic caused Harrison Jewelers to close for months, and Klein himself caught the virus. Making 2020 even harder for the shop, Caselli passed away July 20 of a severe lung disease unrelated to COVID-19.
“I’m still suffering from his loss. We were more like brothers,” said Klein. “I just never had anybody that close to me as a friend.”
Because of Klein’s eagerness to help people the closure hit customers hard. Throughout the years, he said, he developed close relationships.
“What I’m going to miss the most is the customers,” he said. “I’m realizing how much more than customers they really are now that I’m not there to see them.”
Harrison Jewelers became a trusted place to bring jewelry in need of repair. Through the years, Klein repaired many pieces that other jewelers wouldn’t touch — either because the repair was too time-consuming or they didn’t have the necessary expertise.
“The basic thing is, we just wanted to help people,” said Klein. “It’s been that way ever since the beginning.”
Now that the store has closed, those in need of a repair should seek out mom-and-pop jewelers and avoid jewelry stores in downtown areas, according to Klein. Overhead costs will be lower and the quality of service higher.
“Find somebody that you can feel comfortable with,” he advised.
While his repair days are over, Klein is neither ready for retirement, nor is he ready to stop helping customers. He is waiting for the paperwork to go through for his new and smaller venture, called Harrison J. LLC.
“I can take care of any of my customers that want to get in touch with me,” said Klein. “Anything I can do for my customers – I’ll try to do. And of course, they can get a very good price.”
The new venture will also help Klein to stay busy and help others. During his phone interview with Wednesday Journal, Klein was on his way to make a house call for a customer. Helping others, he says, is his nature.
“I’m still going to do whatever I can if a customer calls.”