The Free Press, Mankato, MN
Date: January 16, 2017
MANKATO — Julee’s Jewelry, a longtime St. Peter jeweler known for her custom designs, is opening a shop in the new Tailwind building in downtown Mankato, joining the recently opened Primp Boutique.
“I’ve had people asking me to open in Mankato for a few years,” said owner Julee Johnson. The Tailwind Group asked her to check out their new building on South Front Street. She drove to the building and parked. “I was looking at the building and a couple crossed the street right in front of me holding hands and I though, maybe that’s a sign,” said Johnson, who sells plenty of engagement and wedding rings.
“There’s a lot of energy downtown and when I knew Primp was for sure opening I thought we’d be a good compliment.”
Johnson’s space will be a little larger than the boutique and there will be one more retail space available in the building after she moves in. She hopes to be open by the end of the month.
Johnson started her business in downtown St. Peter in a former jewelry store in 1999. The store had been around for more than 40 years and the business was being liquidated after the owner’s death. Johnson ended up buying the inventory and opening Julee’s Jewelry in the same building.
In 2013 she moved a block north to the historic Nicollet Hotel building. “It’s a beautiful building with big wood columns and great architecture,” she said of her new space in St. Peter.
Johnson travels to Antwerp, Belgium and to New York to buy gems. “I sell gems to customers and we design the jewelry together. I do a lot of custom designs,” Johnson said. She uses a CAD-type system to work with customers on designs or sometimes hand sketches designs that she will make.
“I’m a little more techie than a lot of jewelers. It’s the engineering part of me.”
She said the industry has changed significantly since she started. “The margins have dropped drastically because of the internet. But you never know what you’re getting on the internet, the sparkle, the quality.”
Johnson recently qualified to become a “Preferred Jeweler.” She said just one other jeweler in the state, in Rochester, has the designation. People who buy jewelry from preferred jewelers can bring it to any preferred jeweler in the country for free repairs.