Having a Lock on Lockport

Retail jewelry store owners take great pride in their communities. This takes many forms, from helping local charities to even creating jewelry to commemorate their cities, states, or even the states’ natural resources. In part one of a three-part retailer profile series, Retail Details looks at store owners who have created jewelry lines that honor the places they call home.

George Fritz, the owner of Mills Jewelers, was born in Lockport, N.Y. He has lived there his entire life and doesn’t plan on living anywhere else. His sense of pride in this town of roughly 22,000 residents is evidenced in many ways—like his membership with local business associations and community-oriented groups to preserve historic monuments. In 2007, Fritz was named Citizen of the Year in the “Pride” edition of the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal. (Fritz has also earned many local business and state awards and accolades.)

George Fritz
George Fritz

Pride in the place one calls home is partly based on the city’s place in history. Lockport was named after the many Erie Canal locks in the city. Construction for the locks began in 1816, and reached what was then the village of Lockport in 1825. Scottish and Irish immigrants were the labor force that helped build the locks. When the work was done, they stayed, eventually transforming a village into a small town. Centuries later the locks are still a major part of Lockport. The main lock near downtown Lockport is the central design element of the Lockport pendants Fritz and his staff created more than 15 years ago.

Lockport pendant

“The Lockport pendant shows the historic flight of five on the right, the canal museum in the center, locks 34 and 35 on the left,” says Fritz. “All are framed under the arch of the Pine Street Bridge with the abbreviation for Lockport [LKPT]. Above the bridge are the three church steeples visible in the Lockport skyline, St. Mary’s, the Presbyterian church, and St. Patrick’s.”

Although Lockport is visited by many tourists each year—it is, after all, less than 20 miles from Niagara Falls—roughly 85 percent of the Lockport pendants are sold to locals or those who once called the upstate New York town home, according to store manager Jessica Dittly. Fritz is has also created pendants to help support the Palace Theatre. These pendants are made only in sterling silver and sell for $75 each. Proceeds go to theater.

Lockport pendants are available in sterling silver ($150) and 18k gold ($750).

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