William D. Clater opened Clater Jewelers in the Louisville, Ky., on Oct. 1, 1949. After release from the Navy, Clater secured watchmaking and repair experience in Louisville, even teaching for a spell, before deciding to open his own business. The owner of a local drugstore made one merchandise case available for Clater, which he filled with watchbands and a few rings. To supplement his salary, he walked door to door in town to acquire watch repair jobs from residents.
When retirement time rolled around, Clater’s daughter, Sallie Clater Baer, and a friend, Megan C. Martin, were happy to buy the business from Clater senior; that was 13 years ago. Baer and Martin had been working in the store since they attended high school together-35 years total. And for six years after Clater senior’s retirement, he still came in and repaired watches. He passed six years ago.
During his tenure, William moved the store three times (in its latest spot for 22 years) to accommodate growth, and served as one of the original store members of the Independent Jewelers Organization buying group. The women carry on that IJO legacy, journeying to Antwerp twice a year to buy diamonds, as well as carrying on the tradition of personal service that William started. For example, Baer and Martin have delivered gifts to hospitals, routinely kept later hours for customers, and phoned clients from diamond dealers’ offices overseas, e-mailing photos of stones to prospective buyers. One such effort landed Martin the sale of a 3.29 ct. stone-right over the phone.
"We just do what it takes plus some," she explains of the store’s longevity.
In fact, she’s now seeing second generations of her original customers coming in for purchases in the present-day 1,400-square-foot location with seven employees. Martin’s daughter, Christine, is one of the latter, having recently joined the business as a recently minted graduated gemologist by the Gemological Institute of America.
From left, Clater Jewelers’ co-owners Megan C. Martin and Sallie Clater Baer are in Antwerp buying diamonds during a recent Independent Jewelers Organization trip.