Customers of Ron Wilkin Jewellers Ltd. at 109 St. Andrew Street here would not be surprised to learn that the store and family has been named tops for sales and service by the Canadian Jewellers Group.
That buying group has store members from coast to coast and it recently named Wilkins the best in Ontario. Two other awards went to western and eastern Canada.
If people stop and think about it, the jewellery store seems to have always been there. That is because it has indeed been a jewellery store ever since it was built in the 1880s. Not only was it a jewellery store from the beginning, the Guelph Herald long ago proclaimed it was one of the best in Ontario back then when it belonged to Sam Marshall, who built several stores on Fergus’ main street now known as the Marshall Block.
“We’re probably the busiest jewellery store in southwestern Ontario,” Ron Wilkin said in an interview on Thursday, an interview that was constantly interrupted by a flow of customers, all of whom received the same polite, careful, and courteous service that won the store its award.
And Wilkin was quick to point out the award was won not just by the owner, “but the staff, too.”
There are a dozen people working on the main floor, and another three upstairs.
Ron no longer owns the store. His son, Graham, and his wife, Amy, took it over three years ago, and they, too, credit the staff for helping to achieve the award.
Graham is familiar with how the store began.
“Watch repair,” he said. “That’s how dad started, and it just grew from there.”
Ron Wilkin moved to Fergus from the Walkerton area in 1950, and took over the store in 1967.
The store has always carried what is popular and in fashion. The family has photos of the original owner, and it shows a large selection of pocket watches, as well as a wall cabinet filled with silver services. That cabinet, from over 100 years ago, is still in use in the store, on the right hand side as customers enter, but now it is filled with goods that people want in the 21st century.
The Canadian Jewellers Group allows the family to purchase a wide variety of popular gifts, as well as huge quantities of gems and metal.
As for the award itself, Ron called it “a surprise.” Unlike those associations who ask for applications for awards, this one was done solely by the association.
“It’s an honour, too,” Ron said.
When the store offers customer service, it means just that. If the customer wants something expensive, the Wilkins will obtain it. “Whatever you want,’ Graham said.
He noted that there are few watch repairmen today, though, in a throw-away world. He said when people do want to repair good watches, the store simply replaces the entire works, rather than individual parts.
As for repairing watches himself, Graham said he does not do it very often, but, “I can do a little bit.”
Ron added, “There’s one problem; there’s no watchmakers around” any more.
As for gift selection, Wilkin Jewellers has “a full and extensive line” but Graham said the main business is selling jewellery. The number of people looking for engagement rings, wedding rings, and other gifts in the store that day verified that selling point.
Graham is the fifth owner of the store. After Marshall, it was owned and operated as a jewellery store by men named Rutherford, Butler, and then Ron Wilkin.
Ron pointed out that the store expanded in the back during his time there, as well as the purchase of the store next door when it became available. The upstairs apartments were also converted into business space.
When asked if handing over the business to his son pleased him, Ron said, “Oh, yes. It’s been great for him – and great for us.”
Graham noted that the business has always had a simple focus. “It’s very family oriented.”
That seems to go for the staff and the customers, too.
As for retiring, Ron said, “I guess sooner or later it’s going to have to happen.”
But, as Graham noted, “The problem is he does enjoy it. He’s been a watchmaker for over 60 years.”