Donaldson’s Jewelers

Putting the Custom in Customer Service

Dave Horn has spent most of his career in the jewelry business. But the way he got into the business was anything but planned. He grew up near Topeka and held quite a few jobs before finding his true calling. “I burned through jobs like crazy when I was young,” Dave said. “I would work for a few months and then become bored.” He stumbled into jewelry repair at the age of 24 completely by accident. “I found it challenging, interesting, and I discovered I had a knack for it,” Dave shared. “Twenty six years later, here we are.”

For more than 20 years, Dave worked for a number of jewelry stores around the Topeka area. He repaired jewelry, set stones, and maintained watches. During that time, he saw what other stores did right, and what they could have done better when it came to customer service. Eventually he began to do jewelry repairs for several local jewelry retailers at home while studying hand engraving. This gave him the ability to make decisions on how repairs were done. It was important to him to purchase more modern and higher quality equipment, tools, and materials, creating an overall better repair for the customer.

Then, in 2016, he crossed paths with Dan Donaldson who ran Donaldson’s Jewelers for over 40 years before closing the doors in 2007. Donaldson had created a pop-up store specifically for the holiday season, and he had Dave do his repairs during that time. Dan told Dave how was looking for someone to take over his family business. Dave and his wife Gloria decided to purchase the store in early 2017 and opened it in the fall of that same year. “And that’s how we resurrected a brand and a store that had been closed for nearly a decade,” Dave said.

Today, Donaldson’s Jewelers designs and sells custom engagement rings and other jewelry pieces. They specialize in jewelry repair, stone resetting, and hand engraving. Dave says it’s their customer service that really sets them apart. “I really like customer service,” Dave admits. “I like getting to know people, educating them on jewelry, what to look for, how to shop.”

“Donaldson’s is much more than another retail shop,” Gloria explains. “Jewelry is a very personal purchase. I love to hear the stories behind the requests.” Sometimes they’re repairing a great grandmother’s heirloom diamond ring. The next order may be a custom necklace celebrating the birth of a child. “We know these pieces will be worn for years and they have sentimental value as well as monetary value,” Gloria continued. “We’re so proud to be a part of their life’s journey.”   

One of the unique things their customers love is the microscope camera that attaches to a big 4k TV. It shows the jewelry pieces at a magnified level. “I saw that the customer struggled when only a jeweler’s loupe was available to discuss repairs,” Dave shared. “The microscope camera was definitely the first purchase I wanted to make when opening the store.” These close-up views allow Dave to point out signs of wear and tear like broken prongs, and hairline cracks. It’s just one more level of customer service that establishes trust between Dave and his customers and helps build the personal relationships that have become the foundation of his business.

Fast turnaround is another advantage Donaldson’s can boast about. While the bigger retailers usually take a couple of weeks for repairs, Donaldson’s handles them on site. Repairs are usually done in less than three days, but most times they can offer next-day turnaround. “Besides a good, quality repair, we know how important it is to get these cherished pieces back in the hands of their owner,” Gloria added. “That is why we order parts every day and have them over-nighted.”

“Yeah, our Fed Ex guy knows me pretty well,” Dave added laughing. 

How do they compete with the bigger chain stores? Dave says the fact that they are smaller is actually an advantage. Because it’s just him and Gloria, Dave says, “We get to make decisions based on our ideals and don’t have a huge payroll or lots of overhead, so we can keep costs down. We don’t spend a lot on TV or radio advertising. It’s all word of mouth for us. I tell people, ‘Just say good things about me behind my back.’” 

Visit Donaldson’s Jewelers in the heart of the NOTO Arts & Entertainment District at 902 N Kansas Avenue in Topeka.

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