Originally Published: November 10, 2013 6:01 a.m.
PRESCOTT - Lynn Raskin worked in his father's jewelry store in downtown Phoenix since he attended high school, and moved to Prescott in 1963 to open the second Raskin's Jewelers.
Raskin, 78, recalls Prescott having a population of only 12,000 people and one stoplight.
"It was an older, established town, a lot of ranchers here. You had to gain their confidence."
It took him five years to get established.
"He was really known as a 'credit jeweler,'" said Raskin's son, Greg, 47. Customers bought jewelry on installment.
"It is also where the relationship became tight," said Greg, who joined his father in business in 1991. "It was based on trust. That is why the personal relationship was so important."
Raskin's has thrived since opening the first shop in the Park Plaza on Goodwin Street, and at one time owned three stores in Prescott: at 110 W. Gurley St, the Ponderosa Plaza shopping center on Iron Springs Road and Frontier Village on Highway 69. The family closed the Phoenix store in Central Avenue in 1969, and is down to one location - on Gurley Street. - since Greg closed the store in the Prescott Gateway Mall in 2011 because of the economic slump.
However, staying in business for 50 years is a major accomplishment in itself, and Greg believes Raskin's Jewelers is the longest continuously operated, family-owned business in Prescott. Raskin's plans to mark its 50 years in business with an anniversary sale from Nov. 19 through 23.
Greg, who was born and raised in Prescott, credits longevity to being honest, gaining trust in the community and giving back.
Greg said he has witnessed many changes in the industry, with the biggest being competition from big-box stores and online retailers.
"The competition either made or broke the independent jeweler," Greg said.
"I think it made us stronger," Greg said. "We diversified with product that you could not find in your mainstream retailer."
Examples include diamond engagement rings using Raskin's personal designs, said Greg, who has a jeweler on staff who makes, cleans and repairs jewelry.
Another advantage is Raskin's customers can "touch and feel the beauty of a diamond as opposed to seeing it on a photo on the internet," Greg said.
Raskin's also provides services major retailers do not do, such as repairs and appraising jewelry to determine its value in the event of loss from theft or a fire. He operates an engraving and trophy shop upstairs.
At the local level, Raskin's enjoys "friendly" competition with Jim Lamerson, a city councilman who owns Lamerson's Jewelry & Lapidary Arts a stone's throw away on North Cortez Street.
"I think Raskin's is a cornerstone in Prescott," said Lamerson, a jeweler in Prescott since 1979 who opened his shop in 1992. "I think they have done a fine job in serving the community the way they have served the community."
The senior Raskin, who retired 10 years ago but continues to work part time at the shop, said he decided to follow his father, Melvin, into the family business. The late Melvin entered the business in the early 1940s in Oklahoma City, and moved to Phoenix in 1946.
Lynn earned a bachelor's degree in business from the University of Arizona, and later graduated from the Gemological Institute of America in Carlsbad, Calif.
Unlike his father, Greg, a 1984 graduate of Prescott High School, had not considered continuing the tradition. He earned a bachelor's degree in business from the U of A, and worked in management for a U.S. Army exchange store in Washington, D.C., for three years.
"When I was in high school, I always told myself, 'I'm leaving Prescott. I don't want to come back,'" Greg said.
However, Greg said he knew "in the back of my mind" that he would return to his hometown and enter the family business. Like his father, he graduated from the gemological institute.
Greg is the only one of Lynn's four children, all adults, who entered the jewelry business.
Greg and his wife, Renee, have two sons. Neither Alex, 18, or Drew, 15, has expressed interest in staying in the family business, their father said.
"I think I always have that option and that hope that one of them takes an interest," Greg said.
Follow reporter Ken Hedler on Twitter @KenHedlines.