On Sept. 1 of this year, this Grand River fixture will become part of history. The Yax family has sold the building and a new future for this store front will begin.
Earlier this week, when asked about retirement, Don Yax, Sr. stated, “Oh, no, I am not retiring, I love clock work and will have much more time to devote to it.”
We have all heard the saying, “’Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”.
Yax, who will turn 90 in late August, has done just that.
Just a little HistoryLawrence Yax, Jeweler was a new business in Brighton, Michigan in 1912. A self-taught watch maker, Lawrence Yax sold and repaired jewelry, watches and clocks. He also sold ice cream and made picture frames. A few years later, he moved his business to Holly, MI. (Actual date is unknown.) In 1916, Lawrence brought his business to Howell, MI.
His first store: Lawrence Yax, Jeweler was located north of the alley at 115 N. Michigan Ave. The store was shared with a furniture maker named Al Horning. His son, Donald, Yax, Sr. still has a roll-top desk that Lawrence commissioned Horning to build for him. Lawrence them moved his store to the Atrium of the present Mr. B’s Rustic Tavern. Lawrence shared the store with Bruce Newcomb, who sold shoes. Moving to his third location, 109 E Grand River, he shared the store with Henry Wines who was a druggist. Today it is occupied by Where the Wild Thing Grow, a re-sale shop.
In 1938, the business made the move to its fourth and present location, home to Donald Jewelers at 108 E. Grand River Ave.
Donald H. Yax, Sr. started working for his dad, Lawrence, on Saturdays in 1939. He was fascinated with the gears in watches and quickly learned that he had an aptitude for watch/clock repair. After serving in the US Navy during WWII (1943-1946), Donald, Sr. married Betty Lange and returned to the family business in 1946. In 1947 he and Betty moved to Grand Rapids where Donald, Sr. attended watch making school. He returned to the home jewelry business as a certified horologist (a watch maker). Donald, Sr. worked with his dad until 1953 when he bought the family business. The store name was changed to Yax Jewelry.
In 1973, after thirty-five years of running the jewelry store, Donald, Sr. decided to sell Yax Jewelers so he could experience other types of work.
Four years later, Donald, Jr. decided that he was interested in the jewelry business. Donald, Sr. encouraged his son to go to The Kansas City School of Watch Making in Kansas City, Missouri. There, Donald, Jr. learned how to set gemstones, hand engrave, and repair fine jewelry. In 1978, after five years away from the business, Donald, Sr. with Donald, Jr. re-opened the family business under the new name, Donald Jewelers. Since that time, the family jewelry store has offered on-site jewelry/watch/clock repair, creative services, and sales to the Howell community and beyond. Today, Donald, Sr., soon to be 90 years old, still works at the store and takes daily walks to the post office and bank. Clock and watch repair keeps him very busy. To date, he has given our community over seventy-one years of expert watch/clock making service.
Donald, Sr. is not just a watch maker. He is also a talented woodworker. Before re-opening the family business in 1978, he re-modeled the store. He made and installed the beautiful, wood ceiling. He also built the jewelry show cases. During his life he has built three homes.
His wood shop is always a-buzz with projects. He has built handsome grandfather clocks, custom furniture pieces and patio furniture and oak mechanics boxes for several family members and friends. He even built his own wooden speed boat back in 1960.
Donald, Sr. is not afraid to “rough it” either as can be seen by the never-ending stack of wood that he continually adds to by cutting and splitting.
Donald, Jr. has provided store customers with creative and high quality craftsmanship for thirty-seven years.
Donald, Jr. is very talented with his hands as well. He has crafted, from scratch, beautiful flint lock rifles.
There are two of them displayed in Donald Jewelers’ store. He does wood carving, metal work, painting, and has restored several antique motor cycles. Donald, Jr. took/takes lessons with the violin and the guitar. He plays rhythm guitar in his own rock band. His creative mind is always looking for new ways to express itself.
This family owned jewelry business has provided quality service and merchandise for customers for ninety-eight years and continues to do so. (The business has existed for one hundred and three years.)