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Johnson: 'We didn't want our store to be another empty storefront'

Sharon Johnson (left) and Angie Schieck are adapting to new roles within Johnson Jewelry after Jeff Johnson's passing in late August following an extended battle with cancer. (Alyssa Sobotka / The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — More than a month after the passing of Johnson Jewelry’s pillar personality and head jeweler, Jeff Johnson, the downtown storefront’s ‘open’ sign remains flashing, though transitions have occurred behind its doors.

First and foremost, the store will remain a family business that values integrity, quality customer service and community involvement, said Sharon Johnson, Jeff’s wife, who will work in a minimally visible setting handling more administrative duties. Sharon also works as the Independent School District 518 Community Education director, a position she said she loves and plans to keep.

Manager Angie Schieck will continue to lead the day-to-day operatives and customer experience. Schieck called the regular staff of Mary Schmidt, LeAnn Mulder and Cec Burchill —and part timer Meg Bergstrom and seasonal employees Emma Jirele and Paige Stewart — a good fit for the store.

“We have a great staff that’s willing to work together and learn together,” Schieck said.

Sharon said Johnson Jewelry is fortunate to have a talented staff, which she said is one of the factors that’s allowing the store to continue after Jeff’s recent passing after an extended battle with cancer.

In fact, Sharon recalls, the couple began having the difficult conversation about the store’s future last spring. Should they sell the store or continue, Sharon said the couple contemplated together as Jeff’s health continued to deteriorate.   

Those conversations led to today, where Sharon and the Johnson Jewelry team are adapting to operating the store in Jeff’s absence.

“It was very important to both Jeff and I that we remain committed to Worthington,” Sharon said. “We didn’t want our store to be another empty storefront.”

The store will remain a place where area residents may browse what Sharon called a great selection of merchandise for a small-town jewelry store or order custom designs, as well as  bring jewelry that needs cleaned or repaired. Schieck has been trained to do more basic repair work, but more reliance will be placed on a Sioux Falls, S.D.-based specialty jewelry store to handle more extensive fixes, Sharon said.

She stressed that Johnson Jewelry’s relationship with this company is not new. In fact, it has sent jewelry for repair for more than 40 years.

“We have a very high level of trust with that company,” she assured.

Sharon said another common question she has received since Jeff’s passing has been whether she and Jeff's sons have any interest in returning to the family business. Sharon said they’ve been in and out of the store a bit doing engraving or sales work, but as a parent, she’s not interested in pressuring them to make that kind of a commitment right now.

As a way to enlighten a curious community about the store’s future and to continue their involvement in community events, the Johnson Jewelry team is planning special events in late October.

Johnson Jewelry will again participate in the annual Sassy Saturday, offering to check the rings of ladies who stop in during the Oct. 20 event, Sharon said.

The store will also host a new event shortly thereafter on Oct. 25. From 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. women are invited to come in to learn about the store’s changes, meet the staff, socialize, have goodies and make a wish list, another new program that allows people to identify and catalog their favorite jewelry for birthday or holiday gift ideas, Schieck said.

“Hopefully people enjoy it and have fun with it,” she said.

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