Eaton Turner Jewelry of Helena is the winner of the 2018 Montana Family Business award in the very small business category (fewer than 10 employees), presented by Montana State University Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneur-ship State Farm Insurance Family Business Day.
Don and Deanna Johnson returned from Oneonta, New York to Montana in order to start a family business in 1984.
Don established the first business of custom jewelry and repair, Johnson Jewelers, in Helena. As the business grew and he found a need for more space, he purchased a Montana sapphire business, in 1985, at 3251 Canyon Ferry Road in Helena and expanded Johnson Jewelers to include the sapphire heat treating plant, which Don ran along with the custom jewelry and repair business. Deanna coordinated the advertising and helped where needed.
Like many new businesses, Eaton Turner Jewelry was started on a boot-strap but it quickly grew generating the needed capital. There were some lean years when the economy was not good, and half of the family jewelry businesses in the country closed, but because of a loyal customer base and a practice of paying staff and vendors before themselves, the Johnsons pulled the business through.
In 1995, Don sold the sapphire heat treating plant and focused on Johnson Jewelers as a custom jewelry and repair for high end jewelry stores, as far away as Big Sky, Montana.
In 1996, he purchased Eaton Turner Jewelry at 56 North Last Chance Gulch in Helena.
Drawing upon his artistic skills and business sense, and working many overtime hours, Don achieved the business’ success. He carried that drive and love for his work throughout all the changes, and he educated his staff, customers and the public about everything from Montana’s sapphires to how to treat people.
Deanna worked full time elsewhere the first years to smooth over the rough spots and help support the family, but she also applied her talents to the business taking care of the promotions, advertising and pitching in where ever she was needed, such as working on Saturdays so staff could have time off with their families.
In 2000, the Johnson’s son, Corey, and their daughter-in-law, Katrina, joined the business as apprentices to learn metalsmithing from Don.
Corey has brought a fresh, new creative spirit, technological knowledge and skill, to the business - most notably a willingness to learn from the bottom up as an apprentice. He quickly made a name for himself as his custom jewelry is recognized and sought after.
Like Deanna, Katrina, too worked full time elsewhere to help support their family, while Corey was working as an apprentice. She too, now, works in the business sharing her technological knowledge and organizational skills. Corey and Katrina organized and host a very popular annual open house called BLING, which attracts hundreds of people.
As the business continued to grow, the need for more studio space and additional area for new technology brought about the sale of the downtown store and the purchase of a former restaurant, which was remodeled to fit their needs, at 1735 North Montana Avenue in Helena.
In 2012, Don and Deanna retired, and Katrina and Corey are now in the process of buying the business.
Corey and Katrina have two sons, one of which is showing an interest in the family business. He enjoys his time working with his father in the studio, carving waxes, cleaning the showcases, and working on projects. Only time will tell whether the business grows into a third generation.