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Keeping up with the times: Hettinger’s KB Jewelers changes to meet customer demands

HETTINGER -- KB Jewelers is really a deceiving name. But owners Kent and Kathleen Brackel can't fit books, trophies, food products and other gifts into the name -- or sign -- on their shop on Hettinger's Main Street. The store has many mini-store...

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Press Photo by Katherine Lymn KB Jewelers co-owner Kathleen Brackel discusses the store’s Yankee Candle line at the Hettinger shop on Jan. 30. The store has begun stocking more and more gift options in addition to jewelry since it opened in 1977.

HETTINGER - KB Jewelers is really a deceiving name.
But owners Kent and Kathleen Brackel can’t fit books, trophies, food products and other gifts into the name - or sign - on their shop on Hettinger’s Main Street.
The store has many mini-stores within itself, from bestselling books and a “Grumpy Cat” section to gifts themed for men or wine-drinkers. This diversification has been the key to the shop’s success over the years, the couple says. After 37 years in business, little about the store has stayed the same since it opened.
A small bookstore has replaced the China shop, for example - “brides don’t buy China anymore,” Kathleen said. And scarves are now as popular as jewelry.
The pair worried the Kindle and its counterparts would cut into book sales, but for gifts, shoppers still want a book you can hold, Kathleen said. The store’s selection ranges from classics to New York Times bestsellers to inspirational reading.
Keeping up with the times has kept the store successful, said Earleen Friez, the executive secretary of the Hettinger Area Chamber of Commerce.
“Shifting to the little mini-bookstore has been very beneficial,” she said, “and then, over the years, they have shifted to carrying a lot of food-related products that are gift items.”
The store now gets its “bread-and-butter” from gifts, Kent said. It also has grown to offer personalized trophies, books and upscale clocks.
“You couldn’t have any one of these stores” in Hettinger and be successful, Kathleen said.
Over time, the classic jewelry, like diamond solitaire, has consistently proven to be the most popular for the store’s namesake offering.
Then there’s the store’s other namesake: “Diamond,” the store’s third white-haired, blue-eyed cat.
Most that frequent the store are regulars, and the store offers many things customers would otherwise get by leaving town.
“They are a very important part of our community,” Frieze said.
The second ‘K’
The store was “KB” before the second “K” was added - Kent opened shop in 1977 and married Kathleen in 1983. From his perch personalizing a trophy order in the back of the shop on a January evening, he jokes that he married her for her name.
The two run the store, taking separate lunch breaks so the shop doesn’t have to shut down. Their house is attached.
“We’re pretty much full time,” Kent said.
Watching trends for gifts has kept the store changing and successful.
“What the biggest problem is, ‘What do you buy people that have everything?’” Kathleen said. Often, food products - the store offers mixes for dips and soups, for example - have been the answer.
The stained-glass lamps that alight the store, especially at night, are another popular gift, she said. KB Jewelers has a better selection of the lamps than even Dickinson, she said.
They also draw attention to the store window, which, like the rest of the shop, Kathleen often updates to match the season or an upcoming holiday.
“At night, when you drive by that window,” she said, “it’s just like a living picture.”

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KB Jewelers’ storefront on Hettinger’s Main Street.

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