The Story of State Street Jewelers
April 9 Brown Bag Program Presenters
The jewelry business in Geneva has had a long and fashionable history. In the 1880s and 90s, Genevans could mosey down West State Street and choose to patronize jewelers such as Joseph Bell, A.R. Dow, Charles J. Peterson or W. R. Smith. Many would be surprised to know that today’s State Street Jewelers is a descendent of one of these early businesses.
The succession legacy of Geneva’s State Street Jewelers goes back to 1891 when W. R. Smith, a traveling jewelry salesman from Harvard, Illinois moved here to open a jewelry store on the south side of State Street between Second and Third Streets. Smith sold more than jewelry including silverware, stationary, sporting goods, candy, tobacco and cigars, as well as repairing watches, clocks and other novelties.
After 18 years in business, the 77 year-old Smith retired and sold his shop to John C. Ranbow of Decatur, Illinois. Ranbow modernizes the building with a plate glass store front as well as adding a new stock of jewelry, showcases and fixtures. In 1920, Ranbow decided to take a job in Chicago and sell his business. The new proprietors were S. R. Knox of Janesville, Wisconsin and G. S. Bauder and Howard Bauder of Geneva. They incorporated the business under the name of Knox-Bauder Company. These experienced jewelers and repairmen carried a complete line of carefully selected stock.
By 1926, Knox and Bauder were both in failing health and decided to reduce their stock by auction and sell the business. Former milk retailer W. A. Britton of Elgin bought the company and hired an expert jewelryman, watchmaker and engraver to work in his new Geneva business. Perhaps due to inexperience in the field, Britton sold the business within a year to F. J. Kohloff, who had ten years experience in jewelry sales and repairing in Deerfield, Wisconsin. After several years, Mrs. Kohloff managed the store while her husband opened another store in the Baker Hotel, St. Charles.
In 1938, the Kohloffs decided to focus their attention on the St. Charles store and sold the Geneva business to L. D. Linneman, a watchmaker and jeweler from Elburn. Just three years later, Linneman’s ill health forces him to sell the jewelry store to C. M. Thorp of West Chicago. Thorp was a watchmaker of over twenty years experience, once working for the Bradley Horological School in Peoria and later specializing as a railroad watch inspector. For the next fourteen years, Thorp Jewelry became a fixture on West State Street.
Then, in 1955, after a long and established career, Thorp retired and sold his business to lifelong residents Robert and John Anderson. The Andersons had been operating a jewelry and repair shop on Third Street since 1952 and took advantage of this opportunity to showcase their business on Geneva’s high traffic thoroughfare. By 1985, the brothers semi-retired and sold Anderson’s State Street Jewelers to local jewelry retailers Donna Zollner and Jeffrey Hampton.
State Street Jewelers remained at 216 West State Street until 2000 when they moved into more spacious quarters next door. In 2013, State Street Jewelers moved to 230 West State Street after Merra-Lee Shops closed its doors. This longtime business is connected with the community and generously partners with non-profit organizations such as Geneva History Museum, Mutual Ground and the Paul Ruby Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
To highlight this iconic business, Geneva History Museum invites guests to the Brown Bag Program “Bring Your Bling” where State Street Jewelers gemologists offer their expertise. Join us at noon on Tuesday, April 9 at 113 South Third Street, Geneva, where guests can have one piece of jewelry evaluated. A limited number of items will be seen during the program. Admission is $5 per person or $3 for GHM members