Elgin Jewellers 560Elgin Jewellers has been part of the Port Elgin downtown for the past 40 years.

Hub Staff

In the Spring of 1969, Marie and Karel Ebenstreit arrived in Canada after leaving their native country of Czechoslovakia. Next month, in August, 2017, Elgin Jewellers owners Marie and Karel, along with their son Charles Ebenstreit, will celebrate 40 years in the jewellery business in downtown Port Elgin.

“I don't know where the time went,” remarked Marie. “I guess when you're having fun, right,” she quipped.

Marie explained that the family left Czechoslovakia after the country was invaded by the Soviet Union. “In 1968 the Russians occupied the country...they came over with some other countries and they took over the country, so we left,” she said.

Arriving first in Winnipeg, Manitoba the family eventually moved to Port Elgin seven years later. “For the first six years we were two doors [from our current location],” said Marie, the space now occupied by the renovated Rabbit Dash extension.

When asked how they got into the jewellery business, Marie replied, “Karel was doing the repairs for other people and I was looking for a job and couldn't get one,” she said, adding, “Simple as that. We just learned and met a few nice people and took courses.”

The current Elgin Jewellers location, 690 Goderich Street, was built in the 1800s and has been a dry goods store, a grocery store and spent a brief time as a fabric store, prior to the Ebenstreit’s purchasing it.

Forty years later Elgin Jewellers is still going strong and they say they pride themselves on personalized care for their customers. “I love my job and I love people and I like to deal with people I see and find out from them what they may like,” said Marie. “We try to be here for the people and do our best and that's all you can do,” she added.

With Marie, a goldsmith; Karel, a Canadian Master Watchmaker and certified clockmaker with a 21st century designation; Charles, a colour stone graduate with the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and certified diamond grader; along with their knowledgeable staff, there is no shortage of expertise in the family run business.

“We keep up with the technology and try and keep in the now,” said Charles. “Things are changing so quickly, you want to try and keep up.”

Although there are changes in the technology, Charles said that diamonds and gold remain classic. “They're timeless and jewellery in general is timeless. You just keep up with the styles, because people have adorned themselves with jewels for centuries,” he said. “It's the things that lasts generations and that's what we always think about.”

Charles added that they carry many leading brands such as Pandora but also create custom one-of-a-kind pieces of Jewellery. “Diamonds and precious stones are still our best seller,” he said, adding that he has always had a passion for stones and gems. “There's so many beautiful stones out there.”

Charles said that the world was now really small and that if a customer wants something different, he can get it. “I see everything from all over the world. We go to different trade shows and I meet people in my travels. I know the suppliers and I know the prices are good,” he said. “I've got so many unusual stones because I go there and try and find the unusual and I get excited about finding something different.”

InsideStore560Freshly renovated a few months ago, the family run business sells everything from classic diamond and gold jewellery to clocks, watches and giftware.

Charles Ebenstreit 560Pictured in 1991, Charles Ebenstreit in the family run store on Goderich Street, downtown Port Elgin.

Laser560Keeping up with technology, Charles Ebenstreit works with the store’s laser welder, which he uses to create custom pieces of jewellery.

Microscope560Using a microscope, Charles Ebenstreit appraises a colour stone, which he can link to the screen in the store for customers to view.

Ruby560Charles Ebenstreit holds a ruby, the birthstone for July. The stone was one of several that the store had ordered in from New York for a client to compare colour and cut for a custom piece. The stone is pictured beside a previously made custom ruby ring.