Reed & Son’s fifth-generation jeweler broke the mold in more ways than one. Not only is Ron Reed the family’s store premier CAD/CAM expert, he’s the first generation since the early 1900s who doesn’t bear the name James.
Reed & Sons, which stands apart these days as a store that does all of its CAD/CAM, wax carving and casting in-house, was actually preceded by J.S. Reed Jeweler. The current owners’ great-grandfather James Reed operated that jewelry/optometry store in Milan, Mo., around 1901.
James’ son, also James Reed, in 1939 launched Reed & Sons in Sedalia, 120 miles south. The next generation was Jim Reed, who joined the business after serving with the Merchant Marines. Jim was primarily interested in watchmaking, but he made enough money to buy a significant amount of jewelry on the side. His sons, James S. Reed and Charles Reed, took over the store after starting work there in the late 1960s. Jim retired around 1980.
Charles’ wife, Kathy, has been working in the family business more than 25 years, managing the store and handling bookkeeping and advertising. She says the store remained in downtown Sedalia from 1939 until 1991, when the family decided to move it to the west side of town.
James and Charles owned the business together until James’ recent retirement. Reed & Sons is now in the process of a liquidation/retirement sale as James cashes out his interest. “We’re buying him out and starting out again with no debt,” laughs Kathy. “It’s a little scary, having to refurnish the store!” On Facebook, Reed & Sons assured its customers: “Friends, friends, friends, we are NOT going anywhere. Jim has retired so we are making way for our new and improved Reed & Sons. You can’t get rid of us that easily, we’re home grown and our roots are deep!”
Half of Reed & Sons’ business is custom, with pieces being done from start to finish inside the store. “We have a full shop with more merchandise than needed, but we’ll pick up some of our tried and true lines like Allison-Kaufman, Frederic Duclos, Berco and Gabriel,” Kathy says. “And we’ll add a few, a couple of wedding band lines like Madani from Canada, and Lashbrook.”
Reed & Sons has come a long way since its inception as an optometry provider. “People used to go to a jewelry store for their glasses because of the gold frames,” says Kathy. “They had all the glass lenses there in the shop, and they’d put the lenses in the frames and solder them shut.”
The introduction of microscopes and air tools made a huge difference in jewelry making during ensuing years. But the store’s move in 1991 from a dark, narrow building with few windows to a stand-alone building with plenty of windows truly signaled the start of a brighter, cleaner operation.
“Charles was allergic to polishing compound,” Kathy says, “so he developed his own self-contained polishing boxes that were closed so dust got trapped inside the box and couldn’t get into the air. The polishing compound would just go everywhere, on the walls, everywhere. Now it’s all contained. It’s just a better way of doing jewelry. Charles did that in the late ’70s, and someone else later marketed it. Hindsight is 20/20!
“My husband is constantly tinkering, looking for better ways to do things. If he doesn’t have something that he needs to do at home over the weekend, he’s here figuring out how to do things better.
“People call him from all over, asking for advice on casting problems. He’s taught classes in Nebraska and St. Louis. He loves what he does, and he shows others how to do it better.”
Charles’ deliberate ways have benefitted the family business, particularly when choosing the store’s B&D laser welder in 2004. “When we purchased our laser welder, he waited for the price to drop, then talked to a lot of people before deciding which one to buy,” Kathy says. “And the research paid off - we’ve had minimal repairs, and we use the machine every day. It’s been a really good one!”
Charles, who started out as a watchmaker and eventually moved toward making jewelry, taught himself how to do wax carving and is known for doing very intricate work. “And now, our son Ron has become an expert at setting and making jewelry,” Kathy says. “Ron was trained at the Texas Institute of Jewelry Technology, where he learned jewelry manufacturing, setting - all the basics. They didn’t have CAD/CAM when he started - he learned that on his own.”
Three four-legged family members, all rescues, help out in the store as well, Kathy says. Her little Papillon named Annie teams up with Ron’s dogs Marlowe and Copper. “She’s a little, yappy dog that has her favorite people, the mail man, the Fed Ex guy, all the delivery people - she loves men in uniform! Our customers come in here just to see the dogs sometimes!”