I was still trying to wrap my head around the idea of Key Bank’s downtown branch closing forever when I noticed the “inventory liquidation” banner in the window of Smith’s Jewelers, right across the street.
I had to check that out, so I went into Smith’s and asked what was up. I was told the current owners had decided to retire, but was assured there would still be a store.
Whew. That’s a relief. I think of Smith’s Jewelers, Kirk’s Hardware, Syd’s Bar and the Uptown Cafe as the four pillars of downtown Noblesville. Those businesses have been around so long, it’s difficult to imagine the courthouse square without any one of them.
Smith’s Jewelers has occupied the southeast corner of Logan and North Ninth Streets nearly my entire life, but its history goes back further than that — all the way to 1946, to be exact.
In that year, Claude Shane bought several retail jewelry stores in Indiana and Illinois, including the old Pursel Jewelry Store at 920 Logan Street, just east of the American National Bank.
(If Shane sounds familiar, it’s probably because he was one of the founders of the Shane Co., the wholesale diamond importers — “Now you have a friend in the diamond business.”)
The Noblesville shop was the second in Shane’s jewelry store chain. The first, located in Bedford, Indiana, happened to be owned by a family named Smith, which prompted Shane to rename all his new acquisitions “Smith’s Jewelers.”
After the old Pursel store was remodeled into “one of the most modern jewelry stores in this part of the country” Smith’s held a grand opening October 12, 1946.
I found an amusing story in the April 21, 1950 Noblesville Daily Ledger about a man who came into Smith’s to buy a watch, even though he already owned a perfectly good one.
When the store’s manager asked why the second timepiece was necessary, the customer explained that he needed a watch for each wrist. He said he lived in a town with Central Standard Time, but worked in a town with daylight saving time. He thought if he had one watch running on “fast time” and the other on “slow time,” he’d never be late to an appointment again!
Watches and jewelry weren’t the only items available at Smith’s during the early days, though. The store also sold many non-jewelry items, such as typewriters, wallets, transistor radios, electric hair clippers, and even rifles, and fishing rods and reels!
Smith’s moved into its current quarters in the summer of 1959, after Claude Shane’s brother, Charles Shane, Jr., bought and renovated the old Masonic building on the corner of Logan and North Ninth. The store took over space formerly occupied by Paul’s Jewelry and Gift Shop, and before that, by Kenley’s market.
A new era began when O’Dell and Esther Lakes bought Smith’s in August, 1970. They kept the Smith’s name, but got rid of the non-jewelry items and turned the business into a true jewelry store, upgrading the merchandise and expanding the jewelry lines.
Under the nearly 49 years of the Lakeses’ ownership, Smith’s has sold countless watches, specialty gifts and pieces of jewelry. (I bought my class ring there!) The store has also offered watch and jewelry repair, as well as appraisal and custom design services.
In their spare time, the Lakeses have been actively involved with several local charities, including the Boys & Girls Club, the Riverview Health Foundation, the Megan S. Ott Foundation and Prevail of Hamilton County.
Congratulations to O’Dell and Esther Lakes on their retirement. May Smith’s Jewelers continue to sparkle on the square for another 73 years!
Thanks to Nancy Massey for help researching this column.