LIBERTY — Steve Meirowsky has entered his 51st year at Whiteside Jewelry, 16 E. Franklin St. At the end of October, the jewelry store with more than 100 years of staying power in downtown Liberty hosted a celebration marking the current owner’s 50 years.
Meirowsky came into the store at the age of 11 to help his father, James Meirowsky, work on clocks. He said a lot of those clocks were simple alarm clocks.
“I ended up keeping a ledger of my repairs, just as had been done in the early 1900s by original founder W.W. Whiteside,” Steve said. “We have records going back to 1895 and customers were known by their family name.”
For a time, Steve separated himself from the jewelry store, even while his teachers told him it was a business to be involved in, but he decided to work elsewhere.
“I was 21 and got married,” he said. “I went back to watchmaking school. My dad let me make my own mistakes. I was learning. ... I’m still learning and the biggest lesson is how fast time has flown by as it has never seemed like a job.”
While the watchmaking was the door into the business, Steve knew he needed to grow just as the business.
“So in 1972, I went back to school to learn jewelry repair and manufacturing through the Gemological Institute of America,” he said. “My dad did some, but I added to my skills. It allowed us to get into 14 karat gold and platinum. We started using top quality materials. Our designs began adding to our reputation. We already had a good reputation in town and in the industry, but it continued to grow.”
The increased presence has given Steve a role among the larger jewelry businesses including sitting on the board of the Jewelers Association of America. He served on the board of the Missouri Jewelers and Watchmakers Association from 1981 to 1993 and was president from 1985 through 1989. He has also served as a council representative on Jewelers of America’s Board of Directors, and as president from 1992 to 1993.
“It’s been an interesting career,” he said. “I’m starting some semi-retirement and am training Ryan Miller to take over. My sons have not expressed an interest in the business. They are in IT work.”
Steve is in the store most Mondays and then part time other days of the week.
“I know it’s going to take time to get Ryan comfortable and I want to help him out,” he said.
Some of the lessons he wants to impart include learning from experience, understanding customers and their requests, and simply listening to everyone.
“My father worked here until he was 92,” he said. “He enjoyed coming in and keeping himself busy. For me, I have the opportunity to move to another area here at the store. If repairs or service is boring for a time, I can work on design.”
Steve said he cherished the anniversary celebration and reminiscing about older times and the people who have been like family.
“It’s been good, close relationships,” he said. “While the town has grown, there are still people who want the best we can give them. The store speaks for itself. It’s about treating customers fairly and standing on our history.”
While Steve may not be in the store as often going forward, he said he has known happiness through work, friends and family.
“I would say the ultimate is joy in children and this store has allowed me to provide for my family,” he said.