Ishman Jewelry Store closing after nearly 60 years

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Joanne Ishman completes a sale at her Main Street-Elkader shop Ishman Jewelry. The business will soon close after nearly 60 years.

By Pam Reinig
Register Editor

When Dale and Joanne Ishman bought their store in Elkader in 1960, their “retail neighborhood” included a dress shop, a men’s store, a five-and-dime, and a place to buy spirits. As those businesses closed, others opened in their place. But Ishman Jewelry remained a constant, helping their customers observe special occasions with fine jewelry and gift items.
All that’s about to change. With her 87th birthday approaching, Joanne has decided to close the store that been her life’s work and the life’s work of her husband, Dale, who died in 2010.
“It was a tough decision to make because I enjoyed working there and I love all of our customers,” Joanne said, “but I just can’t do it anymore.”
Dale and Joanne are Northeast Iowa natives. He grew up on a farm near Auburn; she’s originally from the Eldorado area. They were married and living in West Union when Julius Palas decided to sell the Elkader shop. Joanne was the deputy clerk of court for Fayette County and Dale, a graduate of the Elgin (IL) Watchmakers College, was working in a jewelry store.
“It was something we’d wanted to do for a long time—having our own shop—and so this just seemed like a good opportunity,” Joanne explained.
The couple relocated to Elkader and raised their children, Carlene and Craig here. It’s a decision that Joanne has never regretted.
“This is a good place for a family and a good place to have a business,” Joanne said. “If you have a product or a service that’s in demand, you will do very well here because the people are so loyal.”
Styles, trends and purchasing patterns have changed since Joanne and Dale made their first sale nearly 60 years ago. The biggest change Joanne has seen is the practice of brides-to-be selecting their own engagement and wedding rings.
“It used to be that young men would come in and select something, and the whole process was a big secret until he asked her,” Joanne reflected. “Now it’s almost always the bride-to-be that picks out the ring.”
Joanne’s been in business long enough to have sold engagement rings and 25th—even 50th—anniversary presents to the same couple. The connection with her customers is the thing she’ll miss most about her work.
Joanne doesn’t have a firm deadline for closing the shop or selling the building it’s in. She’s been open Fridays and Saturdays for several weeks and hopes to continue that practice until more of her inventory is sold. But she’s taking things one day at time, prudently letting her health dictate her schedule.
Joanne has no plans to leave the Elkader area even after her store closes for good. And though work has been her main focus since she was 16, she has a number of other interests including reading and single-player games like Suduko and solitaire.
“It will be different not going to the store at all but I do feel it’s time,” she said.

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