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By Emily Bontrager
Oberman Jewelry & Gifts will be celebrating their 100- year anniversary on Saturday, September 23. Owners Beverly and Danny Oberman are excited to celebrate this milestone on Old Settler’s Day. The two grew up in Kahoka, Missouri and have continued to keep the family business open.
It all started in 1923 when Beverly’s grandfather, Harry Muhrer, opened up a jewelry store on the north side of the Kahoka Square next to the bank. At that time, the business was known as Harry Muhrer Jeweler.
“He and Paul Howell had a store together and Paul’s was a TV and radio repair, and grandpa had the jewelry on the other side,” Beverly said.
Eventually, Harry Muhrer moved the store to the west side of the Kahoka Square. The store was then moved in the 1950’s to its current location on the south side of the square.
As time went on, Harry talked Beverly’s father, Roy Fry, into learning about watchmaking. Roy attended Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois and he went to work for a jewelry store in Keokuk for a few years before he started working alongside Beverly’s grandfather at the Kahoka store.
In 1959 Beverly’s parents, Roy and Verna Fry, bought the business and the name changed to Roy Fry Jeweler.
At just 19 years old, Beverly started working in the jewelry store herself because her father needed her help.
“I graduated in 69 and in 70 he called me and said, ‘I need help.’ So, I came, and I’ve been here ever since,” Beverly said.
In 1971, her father bought another store in Beardstown, Illinois and moved there after Beverly’s mother had passed away. Beverly was the manager of the store in Kahoka until August of 1974. This is when Danny and Beverly bought the business and changed the name to Oberman Jewelry & Gifts.
To help keep the store open over the years, Danny worked at Stone Container in Keokuk, Iowa for 33 years.
While he was working in Keokuk, Danny decided to attend night school at the Gem City College in Quincy, Illinois so he could learn about watchmaking. Danny has worked on the jewelry and watch repairs for many years at the shop and he loves his work.
Just like any other business, there have been many changes over the years that the owners have had to adapt to. Over the years, the shopping scene has changed immensely with more people shopping online and also not collecting the same items as people used to collect in the past.
“Back then it was more silver, and people registered china for weddings and everything you know. We kind of got more casual and got into more gift lines and cards,” Beverly explained.
“That’s when we started picking up purses and scarves and things like that.”
Oberman Jewelry & Gifts offers watch and jewelry repairs, cards, jewelry, watches, purses, scarves, and an array of gifts for customers to purchase. The shop also is a drop station for the dry cleaners in Keokuk, Iowa.
“Dad always said in a small town you have to be diversified and we try to do that. We kind of have a little bit of everything,” Beverly said.
One aspect that Beverly and Danny both agree has kept the business open for so long is their love for the town and how hard they have worked to keep the store open.
“A lot of the days you think, ‘What am I doing here?’ But then you think, ‘I know why I’m here. It’s because I want to be,’” Danny said.
“This is a lot easier than working in a factory. It’s a lot less stressful.”
“You just have to work at it every day and so many go in thinking they are going to get rich right off the bat and you don’t,” Beverly said.
“You have to work at it and put your best foot forward. Promote your town and enjoy it,” Danny added.
Danny and Beverly want to thank their customers for their support over the years and they hope that the town will stay alive and keep growing with new small businesses.
“The generations now have kind of grown up with the big-box stores and stuff like that. I love it when I see people bring in their little kids and see what a mom-and-pop store is,” Beverly said.
“I remember the dentist, Dr. Barbour, her little girl when they first came to town she said, ‘Oh my mom, this is Oberman Jewelry and much much more!’ It was so cute.”
As a local business it is important for the community to not only support this store, but to also support other businesses in the area.
Please stop in on Old Settler’s Day on Saturday, September 23 to celebrate 100 years of business with Beverly and Danny Oberman. The two will be having an open house that day with old photos from the past displayed in their windows to celebrate. They will also have refreshments and some door prizes.
Oberman Jewelry & Gifts is open Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to noon. The store is located on the south side of the Kahoka Square next to Vigen Memorial Home at 264 West Main Street.