December 14, 2011 - Ortonville- After 29 years, Dec. 24 will be the last day that D.L. Bonner Jewelers, 431 Mill St., will be open for business.
David Bonner, owner of D.L. Bonner Jewelers will close his store after 29 years in Ortonville. Photo by Patrick McAbee. (click for larger version)
David Bonner opened his jewelry store in the village in 1983, with about $18,000 in jewelry, kept in three counters. Over the years, that inventory grew to more than $350,000 worth of rings, pendants, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, watches and more.
Bonner, now 59, was laid-off in 1981 from his job as a die sinker for aerospace projects and a friend who worked in the wholesale jewelry industry asked if he would sell jewelry out of his home. He accepted the offer.
"I thought it was very interesting," he said. "It was a lot of fun, nothing was the same. I always worked with different forms of product and different people."
He took classes on jewelry and the former Detroit resident decided to open his store here in 1983 after helping a friend do some construction work on a village building.
"I really liked the town and after the work was done, I kept driving up, meeting people, doing my own research on the town," Bonner said. "I went to the bank, took all the cash I had, which wasn't a lot, and bought the jewelry that I could buy."
He opened D.L. Bonner Jewelers in the upper level of 431 Mill St.
"It was hard at first, living from day-to-day, while I was up there trying to make it happen," remembered Bonner.
He got called back as a die sinker and worked the midnight shift at that job while running the jewelry store during the day. In late 1985, while working a grinding wheel, he fell asleep and cut off the top of his thumb. His boss told him to make a decision— close the store and keep his job or keep the store open and lose his job.
"I told him there was no decision to be made and gave him two weeks notice," said Bonner, who then bought the building his store was in, moved downstairs and never looked back.
He drew customers from Goodrich, Oxford, Holly and Clarkston as well as Ortonville, strictly through word-of-mouth. His business plan was to keep a low overhead and purchase quality jewelry and sell it with a low-profit margin. He was told by naysayers he wouldn't make it, that the market wasn't big enough. But Bonner said he had the willpower to make it happen, and he did. He also attributes his success to "personal service, a great deal of knowledge, and quality merchandise above what standard jewelers offer."
During the majority of his years in business, the price of gold has been $330-$400 per ounce, but in the past three years, he notes it has been as high as $1,930 per ounce. Accordingly, the price of jewelry has changed because he must pay the market price. Bonner creates custom jewelry pieces for customers, some of whom have been famous, including former Detroit Tigers players Alan Trammell, Jack Morris and Dan Petry. Many more customers have been coming back to Bonner for years for the custom pieces he crafts.
In the current economy, customers have lowered the amount they spend, but traffic into the store has remained high. His customers have remained loyal to him.
"I always try to have things that are more unique, something that you can't find elsewhere," Bonner said. "The styles of the pieces are different compared to other places."
Over the years, he has had good times and bad times, ups and downs. Earlier this year, he and his wife, Marcia, lost their son Tyler, 19, in a car accident. The tragedy was the catalyst for Bonner's retirement.
"I need to get away," said Bonner, who plans to travel with Marcia.
He leaves open the possibility of returning to business on an appointment-only basis and thanks his customers for their support all these years.
"If I don't come back, I will miss it very much," he said.
Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville