Diamond in the rough

Lake Elmo resident hopes to polish up Sherburne Jewelers

Suzanne and Jeff Johnson stand at the counter of Sherburne Jewelers on South Main Street in downtown Stillwater late Wednesday morning. The couple are in the process of re-opening the store on a daily basis and plan to stock merchandise in time for holiday shopping. (Gazette staff photo by Erik Sandin)

Businessman Jeff Johnson believes his latest project just needs a little polishing to remove the tarnish and sparkle again.

Johnson is new owner of Sherburne Jewelers on South Main Street in downtown Stillwater. He closed on the sale last Friday and spent the Labor Day weekend working with his wife, Suzanne, to get the store running again.

Sherburne Jewelers is Johnson’s second jewelry store in the region. He also owns Johnson Jewelers in Seasons Market in Woodbury.

Johnson describes himself as a goldsmith, watch repairman and jeweler and believes his experience will restore the luster of a jewelry store that was once a successful downtown retailer.

“We’re hoping to bring it back up and make it a working jewelry store,” he said.
That’s something Sherburne Jewelry’s previous owner apparently let slide over several years, according to Johnson.

“He was only open a couple hours a day,” he said of the previous owner.
Johnson said he first inquired about buying Sherburne in 2012 but was rebuffed.
“I know the old owner was struggling. I inquired about a the store a year ago and he wasn’t’ ready (to sell)” he said.

But when Johnson heard Sherburne’s owner was ready to sell this summer, he moved quickly to buy the business. What many people saw as a struggling, frequently closed store, Johnson sees as a gem ready to shine again.

“What interested me in buying Sherburne Jewelry is the Sherburne name,” he said. “I live in Lake Elmo and the name Sherburne goes back a long way. And the location in the historic part of Stillwater is just fantastic.

“I’m hoping to build upon what Sherburne has done so well in historic Stillwater,” he added. “The (neon) out front and everything about it right now is Sherburne’s.”
If the reaction Johnson and his wife received after re-opening Sherburne during the holiday weekend is an indication, Valley residents are happy to see a jewelry store open downtown.

“We’ve just had such positive feedback,” said Suzanne Johnson.

“Downtown Stillwater can use another goldsmith and watch repairman,” added Jeff Johnson. “People are really excited that there’s a full-time goldsmith and watch-maker downtown. I’ve already got a lot of repair work. I’ve replaced a lot of watch batteries. I charge $10 to install any battery in any watch, except Eco Drives. Eco Drives are rechargeable.”

Replacing watch batteries and making jewelry repairs is about all Johnson is doing at Sherburne. The display cases are empty and Johnson said he and his wife have spent a lot of time cleaning the store over the last few days.

“We are physically building this from the ground up,” he said.

Although the calendar turned to September, Johnson said he will have merchandise in the store in time for the holiday shopping season.

“Christmas is our busiest time of the year,” he said. “I’ll be having something here prior to then for people to look at and buy.”

More importantly, Johnson believes his business experience will pay dividends as he and his wife slowly restore the Sherburne name in the St. Croix Valley.

“I have 38 years in the business. All I have to do is apply what I learned in 15 years in Woodbury and apply it here. I’m a hands-on type of owner.”

Johnson said the store is open seven days a week. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays.

“I’m looking to have a lot of fun with my new store here,” he said.

Contact Erik Sandin at [email protected]