by Stephen Dafoe
For two decades Jim and Colleen Turner and their staff have been making memories for Morinville residents by providing quality manufactured and custom-made jewellery items for celebrations and gift-giving.
“It comes up fast,” Jim Turner said of the last two decades. “When we started our oldest child was in grade one, and our youngest was six months old. They’re all grown up now. It is a long time, but it seems like it went by very fast.”
Colleen Turner said when the store started, she was at home looking after their six-month-old daughter Elizabeth, and doing the company’s bookkeeping. She and the children did not see Jim much.
“We lived in Sunshine and only had one vehicle, so I did a lot of walking. He didn’t see the kids too much. Usually, during the year he was home at 7 O’clock for sure. Christmas time, we had to go down to the shop.”
Colleen recalls one Christmas where Jim worked on a gift item throughout the night, and his brother delivered it to the customer at 6:30 a.m. Christmas morning.
“In the beginning, we had maybe two showcases, and almost everything was custom,” Colleen Turner said. “But Jim got to do what he loved. We didn’t get to see him too much. It was worth it. We were making enough money to survive, and Jim’s brother was helping him in the shop supporting his family as well.”
But the work has become a little less labour intensive as the shop has added staff and equipment. About 10 years ago, the shop went to computer-assisted design which has helped a great deal in terms of time and design.
“We can do many intricate things without hours and hours of labour,” Colleen said. ”
An interest in art leads to an apprenticeship
Turner was inspired to get into the business by a teacher at the high school, Laverne Dewald, whose wife worked for Peoples Jewellers.
“She found out from the people that did Peoples Jewellers’ repair work that they were looking for an apprentice,” Jim Turner recalled. “Laverne thought of me because I was always good at art.”
Turner applied right after graduation and started the following January after the Christmas rush was over and they could spare the time to train him.
He was with that company for seven years and followed that with three-and-a-half years at the College of Art in Calgary before starting working for Jewels by Design, a custom shop in Calgary.
But he decided to come back to Morinville and start a venture of his own.
“Our family was very young, and I wanted to start my own business,” he said. “I thought the best place to start a business is where you know the most people. That’s why I came back to Morinville.”
Much has changed in 20 years
Turner said he is finding fewer people buying gold in recent years due to the increase in the cost of gold per ounce.
“We sell a lot more silver now,” He said, adding when they opened, gold was $250 an ounce American compared to a high of $1500 in recent years.
“People still buy their engagement ring, wedding band and a few gold pieces, but as far as people dropping by for a new pair of earrings on payday – that’s changed.”
The Turners are seeing an increase in customers using heirloom gold from relatives to make new custom creations to keep the memory of grandparents and parents alive.
“We use that mostly for the memories, and we put the stones in,” he said, adding some people even exchange their yellow gold for white gold, which is a popular trend today.
Other changes have included the equipment they use. Computer design has sped up design time, and laser welding allows Turner to do precision work a torch could never do. They also have a custom engraver that allows them to do a variety of fonts, sizes and designs.
Great staff a constant
The Turners have enjoyed success for the past 20 years, but they are quick to point out it is not because of them alone.
“Selena Turner jumped in with both feet, wanting to learn as much as she could to help make our business even more profitable,” Colleen Turner said, adding Selena has taken a course through the Canadian Jewellers Association and earned a diploma for Graduate Jeweller. “She asked a lot of questions, and wanted to know why we did it this way? What would happen if we do it another way? She is always working, and we are very glad to have her.”
Another longtime employee is Dave Short, who has been with the Turners for 11 years.
“He brings with him a knowledge of computers, electronics, and a great variety of different music,” Colleen said. “When he first started with us, we bought the Matrix program, a jewellery design program. He took courses to learn how to use it and together they were able to create designs that before the program, would have been too labour intensive.”
Turner said Short even built the company’s work benches and workstations.
“We are fortunate and very happy to have both Selena and Dave working with us,” Colleen said.
Not only are the Turners thankful for great staff, they are grateful for the support and Morinville and area.
Over the past 20 years, the Turners say they have had the privilege to be able to work where they live. “It’s not easy for a lot of people. We [the community] just don’t have the business size that everyone can work in their town,” Jim Turner said, adding he is doubly privileged to work in an industry where he is helping customers with a celebration. ”
Being a part of the community is important to the Turners. Colleen says they always try to support Morinville events first and foremost. They have sponsored everything from local soccer and hockey teams to providing items for a number of local silent auctions.
“It’s nice to be able to give back,” Colleen Turner said.