In April of 1906 Gaalaas Jewelers opened its doors for the first time. Stillwater was very different in those days. While horse drawn carriages lined the dirt streets, Stillwater was the host to over 12 jewelry stores. At this time Gaalaas Jewelers is the only one still in existence. Gaalaas Jewelers is one of very few Stillwater businesses to reach the 100 year mark.
Peder Gaalaas decided to start his own store after working for many years at Bockstruck’s in St. Paul. Stillwater seemed to be a natural choice since it was a considerable distance from St. Paul back in those days and had a constant influx of laborers and wealthy business people. Gaalaas decided to specialize in watches and watch repair, hollowware, flatware and other fine jewelry.
Gaalaas Jewelers still houses the first log books that were prepared by Peder Gaalaas documenting all watch repairs as they came in and went out. Records show the first watch repair to be for Mr. Martin Arnesen, when he had his Waltham pocket watch cleaned for $1.00 on April 9th of 1906.
Two of Peder’s children decided to follow in their father’s footsteps. Rudolf and Alma Gaalaas shared ownership with their father and eventually assumed full control of the business. With Peder retired, Alma was left with the task of running the business by herself while Rudolf was away in World War II. Once back, they continued to run the business and Rudolf assumed full ownership.
In 1957, William Gfrerer a longtime resident of Stillwater and employee of Gaalaas Jewelers purchased the company from Rudolf Gaalaas whom was in failing health. The Gfrerer family was no stranger to the jewelry trade. William’s father operated a jewelry store in Princeton, MN, while William’s grandfather owned a competing jewelry store in Stillwater many years before. Records show William’s grandfather, August, was a clockmaker in Stillwater in 1887.
Dan, William’s second son took an immediate liking to the jewelry business and started working for his father at the age of 14. Once finished with high school Dan enrolled in a watch-making school. After finishing among the top in his class, Dan became employed full time by Gaalaas Jewelers. Dan also continued his education with courses from the Gemological Institute of America.
In 1981, Dan purchased Gaalaas Jewelers from his father William. Although a great deal stayed the same, the business was ready for some changes. The world around was changing, department stores were expanding their reach and malls were popping up all around. In order to provide the same great quality service Gaalaas clients were accustomed too, Gaalaas jewelers decided to focus on fine jewelry sales and service.
As the business grew it seemed as though their space on Chestnut Street was getting tighter and tighter. In 1988, the old Eagles Restaurant and Bar at 227 Main Street South was purchased. In 1989, after extensive renovation Gaalaas Jewelers was welcomed into it’s new home. The expanded space allowed for a larger showroom and an expanded workshop to accommodate multiple benches as well as new technology that was being developed in the jewelry trade.
In 2004, the legacy that is Gaalaas Jewelers took another great step. Brandon Gfrerer, Dan’s oldest son came to join the family tradition. A graduate from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota as well as a diamond graduate from the Gemological Institute of America, Brandon feels right at home as a 5th generation jeweler and will take the business to new levels.
The scene of downtown Stillwater has changed in recent years into a popular tourist destination, with a great selection of restaurants and specialty shops, Gaalaas Jewelers has held true to their roots. With the goal of providing top quality jewelry to both locals and tourists alike. They specialize in gold and platinum, diamond and gemstone jewelry as well as custom designed jewelry, and watch repair and sales. In 2006, Gaalaas unveiled its very own line of watches, going back to a tradition that ended in the late 60’s. These watches are made with all Swiss parts assembled in the USA. They come with one of the longest warranties in the watch industry.
Visit Gaalaas Jewelers today to experience this historic business for yourself.