Eighty one years ago, Mills Jewelers opened in the bustling little canal town of Lockport, New York. It was a small corner store owned by a company called the Buffalo Diamond Exchange. It was 1929. These were tough times, and the manager, Leonard Rosenthal, was not always paid. The Company finally ended up giving the store to Leonard in lieu of back wages. Victor Schaefer came to work with him that first year. It was a struggle. In those lean years, Mrs. Rosenthal often placed her engagement ring in the window display to fill up the presentation.
It wasn't long before business began to prosper and Mills Jewelers needed a bigger location. In 1932, Mills moved one block west next to Downtown Lockport's most prestigious department store. The store soon became Lockport's leading jeweler. Then in 1948, Leonard Rosenthal moved with his family to San Fernando, California. There he opened another Mills Jewelers on San Fernando Rd.. That's when Mills Jewelers had locations "coast to coast" (two to be exact)! Leonard's long time friend and partner, Vic Schaefer, stayed to manage the Lockport store. In 1973, the government sponsored a program known as Urban Renewal. Under this program, businesses were required to sell their buildings to the government. The old buildings were torn down, and the land sold to developers who promised to build a new "modern" building. Much of old Lockport was demolished and Mills was forced to move. While many stores opted for locations in the outskirts of the city, Mills recognized the heritage of the Downtown area and relocated half a block down the street.
That same year, George Fritz was the paper boy for Mills Jewelers. Vic Schaefer asked him if he wanted a part time job at the store. He was 16. George's job was to polish the silver, wash the glass, and sweep the floor. The store had a wonderful cast of personalities that Lockport came to rely on. They all had plenty of input for George on how to handle every situation. Gradually Vic Schaefer's eyesight failed and George's responsibilities grew. Mr. Schaefer's gift was 50 years of experience and expertise. When he passed away in 1979, Leonard Rosenthal asked George Fritz to manage the store. Mr. Rosenthal would call from California every week and he would report on the business. George used this time to finish college and earn his certification in diamonds from the Gemological Institute of America. As time went on, Mr. Rosenthal began to make arrangements to insure the store and the reputation he built would continue long into the future with George Fritz as owner. He purchased a small interest in the business. Mr. Rosenthal passed away in 1985. The remaining interest in the business was purchased from his son, Dr. Paul Rosenthal in 1990. Eventually, George earned his degree as a Graduate Gemologist through GIA.
Mills Jewelers represents the life long efforts that so many people have invested into the business. There have been so many expressions of love and milestone moments that Mills Jewelers has helped to commemorate. Generations of Western New Yorkers started their family with a symbol of forever from Mills Jewelers. Future generations will promise to love and cherish with a diamond that will last throughout time as a silent reminder of everlasting love. That's a powerful responsibility. We are not here to simply satisfy. We're on a mission of love. With each piece of jewelry that we create, with each of the lives that we touch, we focus our expertise and passion to achieve an experience beyond all your expectations. When you open that gift wrapped velvet box from Mills Jewelers, you're looking at our reputation.
The success continues to grow.
- In January 2009 Mills Jewelers was voted "Best Jeweler" by readers of Lockport's local newspaper, The Union Sun and Journal, an honor that had been repeated annually since 2001.
- Owner, George Fritz, was named 2007 Citizen of the Year in the "Pride" edition of the Lockport Union Sun and Journal. Previous honors include The Niagara USA Chamber of Commerce 2004 Business Person of the Year. George was also honored by Rotary International with one of their highest honors by naming him a Paul Harris Fellow.
- In 2007, Mills Jewelers was one of five Western New York Businesses honored with a BETA award nomination by Info-Tech Niagara for best website.
- Mills Jewelers has been honored as Business of the Year by the Eastern Niagara Chamber of Commerce.
- Citations of appreciation have been received from the Mayor of Lockport, former Assemblyman Dave Seaman, and Senator George Maziarz for the stores contributions to the community.
- We received national recognition in a feature article of the trade magazine, "Modern Jeweler."
Every staff member of Mills Jewelers is an expert in the field. You receive the benefit of years of training and experience. Examine our diplomas from Gemological Institute of America on the wall. We keep current with weekly training sessions and attendance of all the major national trade shows and seminars. Gone are the days when a diamond purchase was an intimidating blind purchase. We provide the information to make your diamond choice one that will made in comfort and confidence.
In addition, we have a full service goldsmith shop on the premises. We do everything from ring sizing and chain soldering to designing and casting custom pieces of original creations. You receive the benefit of experience and training that has resulted in a level of workmanship that makes comparison unfair. Our lead goldsmith, for instance, is an award winning artist that has been goldsmithing since the age of 12. For no extra charge, you get jewelry that is done right the first time so you can wear and enjoy it longer.
We are driven to give you the best in new designs and innovations along with a consistent emphasis on our founding philosophy of superior customer service. That is what brought us to the respected old age of 78 and what promises to bring continued success. Customer service is more than just lip service. We’ll help you choose and design jewelry that you will treasure for a lifetime. We expect to stand by you as your jeweler from class ring to your celebration of your 50th anniversary. Why not give us a try?