For the first time in its 25-year history, Chalmers Jewelers has a second location.
The Middleton company, founded by Scott Chalmers and known for its custom design work, has opened a shop just a few blocks from the state Capitol and along one of Madison's fastest-growing corridors.
The store, at 524 E. Washington Ave., is in space that most recently was home to Carats Et Kay. But from 1974 to 1995, the spot was home to Furs by Hershleder, complete with a large vault built by Diebold Safe & Lock Co. in Canton, Ohio.
Now, instead of storing furs, the vault has been transformed into a jewelry design center after an extensive three-month renovation of the 1,800-square-foot retail space, located at the corner of East Washington Avenue and North Blair Street. The store includes well-lit, modern wooden display cases, a small coffee bar, a production space with copper vent hoods and three dedicated parking spots behind the building in addition to spaces on the street.
The expansion will allow Chalmers to better serve its customers, who come from throughout Madison and beyond and capitalize on residential and business growth Downtown and on the isthmus, said Chalmers' son, Garrett Chalmers, one of two designers at the new location.
"We've always seen opportunity on the East Side," said Garrett Chalmers, 31. "We've always loved this building, and it really gets our name out there to more people. It's convenient."
Scott Chalmers opened his first store in a strip mall along University Avenue in Middleton in 1992. He increased the visibility of the business in 1999 by moving to a stand-alone location at the corner of University Avenue and Allen Boulevard that for years had been home to a Country Kitchen restaurant. His newest store takes the business into Madison and closer to other longtime jewelry centers like Jewelers Workshop, 301 N. Sherman Ave., established in 1969, and Goodman's Jewelers, 220 State St., founded in 1933.
What would become Furs by Hershleder was founded in 1914 on King Street as Standard Fur Co. The business moved to a second-floor State Street location and started making fur coats and then moved to two other State Street locations before Stan Hershleder, whose father started the business, built his own building on East Washington Avenue. In 1995, Hershleder stopped selling retail furs and sold his storage and cleaning business.
The new Chalmers design center in the former fur vault includes two work stations that share a 65-inch flat screen monitor for clients to easily watch large computer-assisted drawings of their jewelry. There is also a 3-D printer that can make five resin molds at a time in eight hours and a sprawling, 14-foot-long colorful light fixture from Mexico.
The production facility, located in the back of the store near a display case that holds a $72,500 ring with a five karat main stone, includes a 3-D printer that can make up to 20 molds at a time, a steam cleaner and casting and finishing equipment.
About 60 percent of the company's business is based around custom work, said Garrett Chalmers, who grew up in the town of Dunn, graduated from Oregon High School and has degrees from the Gemological Institute of America and California State University San Marcos.
"Price is one thing, but it's a lot about the experience and the thought that goes into it," said Chalmers, who anticipates more retail along the corridor as more housing opens and other companies relocate or expand to the area. "We'll have a lot of people walking in who maybe wouldn't have made it to Middleton."