COLUMBUS — Craig and Clare Stephan have been well represented at many of the most joyous moments in people’s lives.

“We try to create family heirlooms,” said Craig Stephan, who, along with his wife, has delivered keepsakes of happy family celebrations such as weddings and anniversaries that can be handed down to succeeding generations.

Kelly Jewelry Co. has been a gem of a business for the Columbus couple for 45 years.

“We’ve been there to share and celebrate some of the greatest moments of the lives of our customers,” Clare said. “We’re going to miss all of them.”

“This town has been good to us," her husband said.

The local couple, who live on an acreage outside Columbus and raised a family of three children, began putting out the word to customers in mid-November that they were planning a going-out-of-business inventory sale.

They’re in no rush, but the jewelry store is offering prices slashed 55 percent for all merchandise, including engagement and wedding rings, earrings, pendants, necklaces, watches, men’s jewelry, baby and anniversary gifts and more.

They expect the sale to conclude at the end of January.

“We decided over the last year that it was time to retire. We’ve got some things we’d still like to do in retirement,” said Craig.

The Stephans have been putting in 60 to 80 hours a week while running the business for years.

“It’s time-consuming,” Craig said.

Clare wants to spend more time with her six grandchildren, who live in Omaha, Lincoln and Denver, Colorado.

“Two of them have almost gotten away from me (because they’re close to adulthood),” Clare joked. “It’s time for me to go play with grandkids.”

The couple joined Kelly Jewelry in the early 1970s with founder Howard Kelly, Clare’s late father who established the family’s first jewelry store in Denison, Iowa, in 1938.

Kelly operated the flagship store for decades, later opening a second store in Carroll, Iowa, before taking a look at Columbus at the suggestion of traveling jewelry salesmen who thought it would be a good location.

The company founder liked Columbus so much he bought Froemel Jewelry, a longtime pillar of the city’s business community, in the early 1970s and uprooted his Iowa stores. At the time, the Stephans were in Illinois, where Craig got his master watchmaker and jewelry education and the twentysomethings were starting a family.

“In late 1974 we came back here to join the jewelry store,” said Craig, noting that the business was then located south of Tweet’s Sport Shop along 26th Avenue.

Kelly Jewelry shifted from that storefront in about 1978, moving to the south side of 13th Street wedged in the middle of the block between 25th and 26th avenues. In about 1984, the Stephans took over ownership of the store.

The store made its third and final move in 2006 to 3100 23rd St., on the east side of 30 Center Mall, just west of the Hy-Vee parking lot.

“These have been some of our most-enjoyable years. It’s been great,” Craig said.

It’s worked out well to be near the highway while having a large parking lot just to the east full of cars, Clare said.

Craig doesn’t plan on watching the clock on the store’s closeout sale. It’ll probably take a couple more months to sell down the inventory to the right level, he said.

“We won’t leave our customers high and dry. I’ll take care of all their needs before I walk out the door,” Craig said.

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