The Adventure Begins:
Willmar, MN was a thriving railroad town in 1926. That same year Rudy Paffrath, my grandfather, brought his wife here from Wadena, MN. Rudy purchased a jewelry store on Litchfield Avenue in downtown Willmar. The Burlington Railroad was operated on time. Enterprising Rudy became the official watch keeper for the railroad. Along with keeping the trains on time, he carried a line of china and stemware. As we still do today, Rudy’s specialty was his selection of diamond rings and wedding bands. Working alongside Rudy in the store was his wife Katherine, my grandmother. From early on, we’ve been proudly family-owned. The couple had two daughters and one son, my father Lowell. My father contracted polio as a child, which nearly took his life on several occasions. Dad was a fighter, and neither polio, nor severe osteomyelitis would keep him down.
World War II:
Because of his early heath issues, my father was not permitted to enter military service. Those not familiar with his history would frequently question him regarding when he would join. At the age of nineteen, having heard the question one too many times, he left to seeek his fortune in Alaska. Three years later, he retuned to the states (Alaska became a state in 1959) and entered business school in Columbus, OH. He found his skills as a swimmer good enough to become a national championship swimmer. Dad met my mother Shirlee, and they were married. The newlyed couple returned to Minnesota, and Dad completed his education at the University of Minnesota.
Father and Son:
Dad joined his father Rudy in the jewelry store and worked at his side until Rudy’s untimely death at age 56. My grandfather’s passing left my grandmother and my aunts in need of assistance. My parents helped my grandmother care for my aunt, and also brought five additional children into the Paffrath family.
A Natural for Business:
My father was a business man to his core. As his young family grew, he understood his business must grow as well. He made the decision to discontinue the china and stemware lines to solidify Paffrath and Son Jewelers as the place to go in west-central Minnesota for diamonds. In addition, he created our first “Diamond Room”, a room designed strictly for showing and selling diamonds. He was an innovator, being the first in the field in our region to advertise on television. Hard-working, he was also the first to show loose diamonds, use a microscope, and complete repairs in the store.
A Growing Family:
Dad’s efforts paid off and allowed the business to thrive. He would open three additonal locations. I operated our Willmar location, my brother Joel operated our Alexandria, MN location, while my brother Ted operated the Owatonna, MN store. My father, like his father before him passed away at an early age. He was only 63 years old.
A New Chapter:
After graduating from Bemidji State University, I bacame a teacher in Atwater where I met my wife Diane. We were married in 1976, and our daughter Jennifer was born in 1978. Jeff was born soon after, followed by Lyndsey, five years later. I joined our family business in 1981, and worked alongside my dad until his passing from cancer in 1987.
The Tradition Continues:
After graduating from Moorhead State University with a degree in business, my son Jeff also joined the store. He has become an artisan goldsmith. Jeff’s passion, skill, and talent has allowed him the ability to design and create just about anything.
Take care of the people who work for you
Like my father, and my grandfather before me, I have learned that the key to a successful business is taking care of the customer, and the people one employs. That is evidenced by our loyal customers, and folks like Mrs. Jerri Johnson, who joined Paffraths under my grandfather’s leadership. She was a part of the store’s legacy for 40 years. Jackie Brown was hired by my father in 1980 and still works with us today. Treating our staff like family has been the cornerstone of our philosophy since a young man bought a local jewelry store in 1926.