Forrest “Bud” Becker purchased Frank Eschmann’s Jewelry store in Breese in 1949 and renamed it Becker Jewelers.
The successful jewelry business has remained family owned and operated ever since. Becker Jewelers is now owned and operated by Bud’s son, A.G. Becker, who, with the success of the Breese location — which is the primary store — opened a second location in Highland in 1995.
A.G. took over the family business in 1986 — his father died in 1990 — and has been involved with Becker Jewelers for 40 years. His wife, Angie, serves as his partner and the business is celebrating 70 years of service to the community.
“I’ve been given a gift as far as having a legacy my father and parents started,” said A.G. Becker, 54. “It’s fun in our industry because every day is a different day.”
Services Becker Jewelers offers include jewelry repair, ring sizing, prong work, resetting diamonds and gemstones, diamond and gemstone replacement, restring pearls and other beads, watch repair, watch battery replacement, custom jewelry design, computerized engraving, tuxedo rentals, and wedding dress preservation.
The business has two full-time jewelers on staff and does all repair work in-house at the Breese location, which has five full-time employees, along with A.G. and Angie, and is 5,000 square feet. The Highland location has three full-time employees.
All Becker Jewelers employees must have Gemological Institute of America and Diamond Council of America certification. A.G. Becker himself is a board member or Retail Jewelers Organization, which he said gives them the buying power to compete with larger companies.
“We’re a mom and pop store, but we don’t have mom and pop styles,” he said. “We have name brands and we’re authorized jewelers of Hearts on Fire, Gabriel and Co., and many more. We have the brands people want. We’re known in the community for giving fair, honest prices.”
A.G. Becker is particularly excited about a present job involving a deceased priest. The priest had a sterling silver challis that came from Germany, and, in his will, he wanted it melted down with each of his 28 descendants receiving a piece of it. Becker Jewelers found a comprehensive solution.
“We’re making a mini-charmed sized challis that mimics it ... we can scan it and just make it a three-dimensional charm,” A.G. Becker said. “And we’re putting his initials on the back of it and the day he was ordained. It’s basically going to be a mini version of the challis he used the last 55 years made of the same metal as the original and each descendant will get one.
“Custom jobs like that we do, a lot of stores don’t or can’t.”
Becker Jewelers draws customers from all over the metro-east, including Mascoutah, Belleville, Fairview Heights, and Smithton. Overall, A.G. Becker has enjoyed many aspects of the business, specifically seeing clients extremely satisfied with their merchandise. He also said any challenges over the years have been fairly easy to overcome.
“Obviously, with the advent of the internet, people think they can compare apples to apples when it comes to a diamond, which is not true,” A.G. Becker said. “You can’t compare apples to apples when something is made by Mother Nature.”
He said trust and excellent employees have helped sustain them for 70 years. He specifically mentioned Jane Niebur, who worked for both his father and him before retiring a few years ago.
“Without her and some other really key employees — currently and previously — we wouldn’t be in the position we are today,” A.G. Becker said. “We’ve been gifted with some really great employees over the years. (Our success) is also about trustworthiness and the reputation we bring to the table and how we go about our business on a daily basis.
“Not many businesses last 70 years — especially in the same family.”
Highland location ‘leap of faith’
Becker Jewelers in Highland recently celebrated its 24th birthday — they opened Sept. 11, 1995. The Breese location had many customers from Highland, Grantfork, Troy, and other neighboring communities, so A.G. and Angie decided to expand their footprint.
“In 1995, my wife and I took a leap of faith and bought a lot, built the building, designed the store and opened it in September 1995 on the square,” he said. “They community of Highland has welcomed us with open arms over the years. We’ve met a lot of good people in Highland.”
A.G. recently learned Becker Jewelers in Highland sold a fourth generation engagement ring. Moreover, A.G.’s father sold an engagement ring to this young man’s great-great grandfather.
“I don’t know how often things like that happen,” A.G. Becker said. “Things like that are the reason this is so gratifying.”
70th anniversary celebration
To commemorate the 70th anniversary, Becker Jewelers will have specials from Sunday, Sept. 22, through Saturday, Sept. 28. The business will feature $7,000 in giveaways obtained through partnerships with vendors, A.G. Becker noted.
They also will have food, appetizers, beer, wine, cocktails and soft drinks all week. Additionally, selected merchandise will be marked down for seven days only and designers, manufacturers, and reps will be in both stores all week.
Location info, hours of operations
The Breese store is located at 315 N. Main St. The phone number is 618-526-7145 and hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday-Wednesday; 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday-Friday; and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. They are closed Sunday.
The Highland store is located at 917 Main St. The phone number is 618-654-7464 and hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday-Wednesday; 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday; 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. They are closed Sunday.
During the anniversary event, they will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Friday at both locations. and then 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday like normal. The business website is www.beckerjewelers.com.
About the Beckers, the future
A.G. and Angie got married April 9, 1994. They have one child, Callie, who is a junior at the University of Iowa studying pediatrics. The family resides in Breese, and both A.G. and Angie are Breese natives. Angie is an integral part of the business.
“She does most of the bookkeeping, merchandising and buying,” A.G. Becker said. “She’s a lot more fashionable than I am.”
A.G. Becker graduated from Breese Central and then Eastern Illinois University in Charleston with a degree in marketing and advertising.
A.G. said he has no plans of leaving the jewelry business, but ultimately would like to work three-four days a week instead of six.
“I’ll always be in the jewelry business, but I’d like to narrow my focus,” he said.