Not Just a Pretty Face
McCOOK, Nebraska - Through the years, an increasing number of customers have turned to Longnecker Jewelry in McCook for jewelry design and repairs.
"I am gratified by the growth," says the store owner and jeweler, Bill Longnecker. "It's personally very satisfying because of the pride of creation."
But, to set the record straight, Bill wants everyone to know that the business growth would not have been possible without the contributions of Janelle Williams, who handles a myriad of duties in the store. "Janelle's progress has been a great help to me. She does a wonderful job assisting customers with new purchases, taking in repairs and doing the accounting," Bill said. "With Janelle's help with customers, I am able to concentrate on intricate repairs and custom design without being interrupted."
Janelle came to work for Longnecker Jewelry in 2010 and in the four years since then has assumed more and more responsibility, thereby allowing Bill to concentrate on the creative side of the jewelry business. "I want everyone to know how important Janelle is to the store. She's more than a pretty face. She is dedicated to customer service and quality," he said. "Janelle is our up front person. She knows prices, policies and procedures, sometimes better than I do myself."
Janelle grew up in Colorado Springs, but moved to McCook at age 16. Following graduation from McCook High School in 2008, Janelle moved to Lincoln for a brief time before returning to McCook in 2009. She has two children: Chloe, 5, who started kindergarten this fall, and Kyler, 3. Janelle's fiancÚ is Jake Metcalf of McCook.
Janelle's major emphasis is helping the flow of customers who come into the store at 314 Norris Avenue in downtown McCook. In addition, Janelle does all the accounting and inventory.
Longnecker Jewelry is very active on Facebook, and both Janelle and Bill maintain a strong presence, posting pictures and interacting with customers.
One of the things that Janelle really likes about the jewelry business is helping couples pick out engagement rings. "It's such an exciting time for them. It's an uplifting feeling to help them find a ring that matches their heart's desires."
Another store service that is growing in popularity is computer aided design (C.A.D.). At first, Janelle steered clear of the design computer, but she now embraces it, having seen many times the creative designs that it can produce.
As time passes, Janelle says it's important for everyone to make sure their rings are cared for. "We often compare rings to tires," Janelle says. "Tires wear out. It's the same with jewelry." She said it's important to have rings checked regularly. "I can clean them and check to see if they need tips or prongs. Sometimes the rings are missing entire prongs but the wearer can't tell it or doesn't notice." she says. "Maintaining jewelry is far more affordable than replacing missing diamonds and gems."
Another point of pride for Longnecker Jewelry is its repair reputation. "We don't send anything in to the manufacturer unless the company asks us to," Janelle says. "Bill does all the repairs here and can usually have the work done in a week to 10 days, in some cases a lot sooner."
Bill Longnecker's working life has been spent in the jewelry profession, first as a designer in Kansas City and later as the head diamond setter/jeweler for Jimmy Smith Jewelers in Decatur, Alabama.
It was at this point that Bill realized he was too far from home, and wanted to come back to Southwest Nebraska. "I was born in Maywood, went to school in McCook and graduated from Republican Valley High School," Bill said. Upon his return, Bill became associated with Johnson Jewelers in McCook.
Soon after that, a desire to have his own store led Bill to establish Longnecker Jewelry in Imperial. From that beginning in 1996, Bill has moved and expanded, establishing Longnecker Jewelry at 224 Norris in McCook in 1999, and moving to larger quarters after purchasing the building at 314 Norris Avenue in 2004.
The 314 Norris store - which has been Longnecker Jewelry's home for the past ten years - brought Bill's jewelry career in Southwest Nebraska full circle, as that is where Johnson Jewelers was located when Bill began working for the Johnson family in the mid-1990s.
"I am very fortunate," Bill said. "I'm doing what I love to do in the place I want to be."
What originally attracted Longnecker to the jewelry business was the opportunity to do design work. "I have always liked art and my favorite part is sculpting, which I get to do through jewelry design work," he said. Advances through the years now allow Bill to craft engagement rings and other jewelry items with computer-aided design. He adds, "Although the technology makes it more affordable, you still need to know composition, style and wear-ability. The C.A.D. is just another brush in my artistic toolbox."
The company website is www.longneckerjewerly.com.