When watchmaker Worth Eldon Randel traveled from Geneva, Neb., looking to buy a jewelry store, several in the area were available, but he settled on one in West Point.
Worth and his wife, Alma, purchased the jewelry store in 1957 from Walter Kerl.
In 1975, after a number of years in business, they moved the store across the street to where Randel Jewelry is located today, at 122 N. Main St.
The legacy of W.E. Randel, as he was known, is captured in a portrait hanging in the jewelry store’s back repair room, where a watchmaker would be at home.
Though W.E. Randel has passed, Randel Jewelry continued under his son, Glenn.
Speaking on the longevity of the family business, Glenn Randel said, “My father owned the business for 30 years and I’ve had it for 35 now. I never thought I’d own it longer than him.”
When his father owned the store, Glenn said that he worked with a handful of watch brands.
“Elgin, Waltham, Bulova and five or six others,” he noted.
His father would take a watch apart, clean it, put it back together and time it.
“I think he charged $4.95,” Glenn said. “I don’t know how he did it.”
Back then, Glenn explained, watch brands often shared the same movement, also known as internal mechanisms, so the parts could be shared.
“It’s not like that anymore,” Glenn said. He said today, each watch now has its own specific fit, “so you can buy a watch almost cheaper than you can repair it,” he noted.
While W.E. Randel was a watchmaker, Glenn said he stuck to the retail side of the business, having friends in the industry he could send his repair work to.
Glenn noted he didn’t get into the family business right away. After graduating from college at Midland Lutheran College in 1983, he taught physical education and coached in Bloomfield, Neb.
After four enjoyable years in Bloomfield, Glenn said he realized if he ever wanted to move back to West Point, taking over the family business was his opportunity to do so.
In his life, Glenn said there’s been a theme of things working out how they’re meant to, or “the stars aligning,” he said.
It appears the stars aligned for him with the move back to West Point, because it was there he also met his wife, Deb. The two married in 1986 and began running the business together in 1987.
Since then, the well-known store has been a place for people in the community to shop not only for watches and rings but also earrings and necklaces, home décor, handbags and other gifts.
Over the years, Glenn and Deb have been a part of helping couples picking out engagement and wedding rings. The special stories attached to them “are too many to name,” the storeowners both noted.
The couple also filled special design orders. Customers would give them an idea of their ideal ring based on a photo. The Randels would send the designs out to California or New York, and “they came back exactly how they want it,” Deb said.
The business went well for the couple, as they raised their family in West Point and Glenn continued coaching at the local high schools.
When Glenn took a teaching job at Walthill Public School, Deb remained at the store fulltime, a role that she said fit her well because, she said, “I’m a people person.”
Deb also said in all her years at Randel Jewelry, “I had excellent help.”
“All my workers have been great,” she added
Glenn said owning a business doesn’t come without challenges, whether changes in the economy or other things that happen beyond human control.
“We survived IBP and Wimmer’s closing, so we lost two major, major industries there. We survived the flood and the pandemic,” he said.
The nature of business also changed over the years. Glenn said while competition is good, they used to know who their competitors were in town. Over time, their competition came from 50 or 60 miles away.
“In today’s day and age, you don’t know your competition. Well, you do, but it’s Amazon and online businesses,” he said.
Despite those challenges, the Randels said, people were greatly supportive of Randel Jewelry.
The couple said the most rewarding part of owning the retail store was the people they encountered day-to-day; people they formed relationships with, like the salesmen that came in, their suppliers, patrons and other community members.
“I coached a lot of kids. I’ve raised a family here. So you get to be friends with people,” Glenn said.
After the duo hit the 35-year mark, they figured retirement was on the radar. They anticipated it would be a couple years away, but then, the stars aligned again.
“Someone came in and wanted to buy our building,” Glenn said. After thinking it over, the pair decided, “Ok, let’s do it.”
The decision to sell was partly influenced by Glenn and Deb’s desire to spend more time with their three children: Toby, Craig and Shelby and their 11 grandchildren.
“We want to start following our grandchildren and it’s tough to follow them when Deb’s at the store and I’m teaching,” Glenn said.
Although Glenn will continue teaching and coaching for at least one more year, Deb noted it will be nice to have more family time and freedom do some traveling.
As a chapter in their lives comes to a close, Glenn and Deb expressed their gratitude for the support the community has shown to Randel Jewelry over the years.
“I’d like to thank all our past customers,” Glenn said. “When my dad took the business over, my mom was pregnant with me. I’m 65, so it’s been 65 years. I’d really like to thank everybody that’s shopped with us and did business with us.”
Although Glenn and Deb said it’s been one of “the hardest and easiest decisions” they’ve made, they are looking forward to the new chapter ahead.
“It’s been a fun ride,” Glenn said. “Unbelievable.”