North side store offers fine jewelry for more than 50 years
Freber’s Fine Jewelry, like a diamond, is forever.
Well, for a very long time, at least.
The Beaver Dam business was founded by Richard Freber in 1964, when the longtime flooring dealer was looking for an occupation that was less physically demanding.
“I grew up in the floor covering business,” said current jewelry store owner Lonnie Freber, Richard’s son. “We did Formica, ceramic, sanded wood, light sheet goods and other things. Dad said his knees were giving out. I said, ‘OK. I’ll talk Byron Spangler (owner/operator of Spangler’s Honda Hut in downtown Beaver Dam) into a Honda franchise.’ I was in the motorcycle business for 15 years.”
In the meantime, Richard, who also had a machine shop and had previously fixed watches, established a jewelry store in “the first house by the dam” on Madison Street. The business flourished, but Richard died in 1974 at age 58. Lonnie took over the store that year, so for a time he was running two businesses. Eventually, he sold his motorcycle franchise back to Mr. Spangler and concentrated on his career as a jeweler.
Lonnie’s mechanical skills easily transferred to the new business.
“If you can fix motorcycles, you can fix jewelry,” he said. “Some of the tools a jeweler uses are just the same — if maybe a bit smaller.”
The store was later moved to a new building Lonnie had built on North Center Street and then downtown.
That building was one of the 11 demolished following severe flooding events in 2004 and 2008, although Freber’s had previously moved to Beaver Dam Mall. It remained in the mall for 17 or 18 years, prior to moving to its current premises at 1740 N. Spring St. in 2005. The display cases Lonnie had built were equally at home there and developments sprung up around them with Kohl’s department store, Kaljm Salon, Applebee’s, Pizza Hut and Sterling Optical.
Lonnie prides himself on operating a full-service store, with a large selection of ready-made and custom options.
“We can do it all,” he said. “Years ago, I used to manufacture a lot myself. Today, with so many rings available to us overnight, we will set whatever type, size, shape or grade of stone a customer might want.”
The store has a vast selection of wedding bands, engagement rings, anniversary rings, pendants, lifetime warranty chains, earrings, Seiko and Citizen watches and more. The store prides itself in providing quality options at affordable prices, and servicing all jewelry, whether or not it was purchased there.
“If somebody’s looking for something different, we have different, because I think the special person in your life deserves something that’s not a cookie-cutter look,” said store manager Stacy Freber, Lonnie’s daughter-in-law. “And that’s what we look for — nice pieces.”
She said special orders are welcomed.
There is also an “estate jewelry” case offering classic, vintage rings at reasonable prices.
The market for jewelry is strong, with the majority of it being bridal.
“Jewelry is a very emotional purchase,” Stacy said. “It makes people feel prettier. Men buy it to make women feel special, wanted, loved. That’s what it’s all about.”
Stacy, a diamond grader certified by the Gemological Institute of America, is happy to educate buyers on the finer points of buying a ring or other piece of jewelry. She stresses that quality is one of the best reasons to trust in Freber’s, with many compliments from customers regarding the value of their products.
“We have vendors that we have been working with for 20 years or more,” Stacy said. “They come in and show us their products. We’re not just picking things out of a catalog. We can get what our customers are looking for to match their price point — and to provide great value as well.
“It’s a one-to-one relationship our customers that is unique to our industry. It’s what sets us apart from so many jewelers today.”
Freber’s is the go-to place for replacement watch bands and resizing, and batteries — all done at a reasonable cost.
There are eight full- and part-time employees, including those who specialize in repairs and other custom work.
Although the strip mall in front of Kohl’s looks a bit barren with only Freber’s remaining, Stacy promotes its positive aspect.
“Our customers have the best parking spaces anywhere,” she said. “There’s almost always a front row spot open.”