Everyone loves a great story. There are many different types of stories one can tell—suspenseful dramas, hilarious comedies, exciting thrillers, happy fairy tales, and our personal favorite, love stories.
The Harry Ritchie’s story really is a love story. It’s the story about the love of two people, a love of family and a love of making people happy—be that with something shiny or simply a smile.
Harry and Jerry Ritchie were married in 1941. At that time, Harry's father-in-law, Arthur Cohen, managed a jewelry store called Weisfield's, which was located in downtown Portland, Oregon. Weisfield's was owned and founded by Jerry’s uncle, Leo Weisfield. In 1944, Arthur hired Harry and Harry's brother, Maurie to work in the Portland store. By 1946 Harry was promoted and asked to relocate to Eugene, Oregon to open and manage a new location. Harry managed the Eugene store for 10 years and was well known by his customers as a kind and honest man.
Harry enjoyed his job, but in his heart he was an entrepreneur with a unique vision for the type of business he’d like to run. Harry wanted to bring something new to the jewelry market. He wanted to offer beautiful, high quality jewelry that was also affordable. Providing this level of value would mean offering flexible credit options for everyone—from young romantics buying an engagement set to the young at heart celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. Offering credit for jewelry was extremely uncommon and would make Harry a true pioneer in the industry. Not to mention, he was ready and willing to offer credit with not much more than a firm handshake!
One day in 1956, Harry came home from his job to his wife and two children, Susan and Donald. He turned to his kids and said, “Your mother and I have decided we’d like to open our own store, but first, we’ll need your blessing and your piggy banks.” Donald and Susan both gladly offered up their piggy banks and said, “We’re in!”
Leo tried to convince Harry to stay at Weisfields. He even offered him a top position in their Seattle headquarters, but Harry and Jerry had made their decision. Together, with their family, they opened their first store at 856 Willamette Street in downtown Eugene. Today, Harry Ritchie’s corporate office is located just a block from the original location. The Weisfields gave Harry and Jerry a file cabinet as a gift for their new store. That same file cabinet has become a treasured family heirloom and a constant reminder of how they started the family’s “jewelry roots.” On opening day of their very first store, there was a line of people down the block waiting for the doors to open. When Harry saw this, he ran to the back room, closed the door, looked up towards the sky and thanked God for the blessing of his business.
More than five decades later, the Harry Ritchie’s story continues to be written. Harry and Jerry’s children and grandchildren now own and run the company. Whether you visit us in Eugene or any one of our 16 locations across the northwest, you will experience our family values and unrelenting commitment to quality and service. Harry would often say, “My ultimate goal is for people to leave my store with smiles on their faces.” As it turns out, he was overwhelmingly successful at accomplishing this goal. Putting a smile on a customer’s face is now the goal of each and every Harry Ritchie’s employee.
Harry Ritchie passed away in 2006 at the age of 91. Even in his later years he still stayed active in running the company. He was well respected in the national jewelry community, not just for being a great businessman, but also for his big smile and love of taking care of people. Throughout his career Harry was sought after to lead other large jewelry companies, but he always turned them down. He loved his business. He loved his family. And really, to him, the two were one in the same.
We hope our story has made you smile. Thank you for taking the time to read it. The next time you pass by a Harry Ritchie’s store, we hope you’ll come in and experience our fun family jewelry store!