Nielsen’s Jewelers, a family business that began before the making of the Model T, has endured two world wars, the Great Depression, and the influx of corporate business and large chains, continuing to serve it’s customers today with dependable old-fashioned ethics. In 1892, when the Transcontinental Railroad flourished with passenger and goods transport between the coasts, Hans Heide, a Danish immigrant, opened a modest jewelry business in Albina, near the rail yards specializing in watch and clock repair. In 1900 he was appointed an official railroad watch inspector, a prestigious position given only to qualified stores.
Having learned the trade of watch-making, Niels Nielsen left his home in Århus, Denmark and set sail for America in 1911. Two years later, he was hired by Heide as a watchmaker. Niels lived in the apartment over the store earning twenty dollars a week. In 1921, Niels purchased the business from Hans Heide and changed the name to Nielsen’s Jewelers.
January 1926 was a significant month for Niels Nielsen. He moved his store to North Russell and Williams Avenue and became the proud father of twins. The birth of Joan and John added the dimension of family to Nielsen’s Jewelers. Niels inspected and repaired watches, his wife Anna strung pearls and beads, and Joan and John helped around the store. John learned the trade of watch-making and partnered with his father in 1945. Joan offered her talents in sales, creating window displays, and keeping the books.
In the early 1950’s, Niels and Anna Nielsen celebrated the two weddings of their twins. John married Dolores Ramsten and had two daughters, Jan and Linda. In 1957 John bought the business from his father, but Niels continued to work at the store until his retirement at age 83. Retaining the honor of inspecting railroad watches, John also received certification in gemology. He served as president of the Oregon State Jewelers Association for three years and was a regional director for Retail Jewelers of America for six years, representing Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska.
Big changes came in 1961; Nielsen’s Jewelers moved to the corner of twelfth and Wielder in the Lloyd Center and became known as The Sweetheart Corner. Nielsen’s was open six days and two nights a week, with an additional trip to the store every Sunday to wind the watches. On Sundays Jan and Linda received their first on-the-job training in winding watches and cleaning glass counters. Jan continued to work in the family business learning the modern way of watch repair, replacing batteries and adjusting watchbands. Nielsen’s Jewelers expanded its walls in 1973 and added a clock shop, complete with beautiful grandfather clocks and whimsical coo-coo clocks. In 1992 John Nielsen sold his jewelry business to his daughter Jan, the fourth generation to own and operate Nielsen’s Jewelers.
Today, Nielsen’s Jewelers is located in the Lloyd Tower building which is just across the sky bridge from Lloyd Center – West End. Behind the counter, the original clock used for the railroad watch inspection still keeps the current time and Mr. Nielsen’s antique workbench continues to fill the modern demands of jewelry and watch repair. Through the generations, Nielsen’s Jewelers continues to offer superb quality, honest and fair prices, excellent customer service, and a caring family atmosphere. Jan works together with her daughter Sara adding the fifth generation to the family business. With their passion and knowledge for fine jewelry and watches they assure personal assistance with every purchase from Nielsen’s Jewelers.