At the end of World War II, bomber pilot Eugene M. Smith turned in his wings after serving an honorable tour of duty and embarked upon career a little less hazardous. Eugene took full advantage of the GI Bill and headed to Cincinnati, Ohio to attend the Gruen Watch-making Institute. He graduated the course and went right to work at Gossards Jewelers in Washington Court House, Ohio.
In 1948, Eugene and his wife, Betty moved to nearby Chillicothe, Ohio to open a watch repair shop with $1,500 borrowed from his father-in law. $1,000 was spent on the needed tools and the remaining $500 was used to buy some watch bands and a few watches. Eugene and Betty worked long hours at their little shop, and each took home a salary of $60 per week.
Although approximately six well established jewelry stores were Eugene's competition, he found that the key to success was service. As a result of his efforts, the small business flourished. The shop was relocated in 1954, and the couple hired their first employee, Mrs. Mary Montavon, in 1955. Mrs. Montavon stayed with E.M. Smith Jewelers until her retirement in 1990.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Eugene worked to expand his knowledge of the jewelry industry by taking several gem courses. In 1962, the store relocated again and several new employees were added to keep up with the business growth.
During the mid-1970s Eugene became involved in the jewelry industry at the state level, serving as President of the Ohio Jewelers Association. It was during this time that he suffered the loss of his beloved wife, Betty. Eugene was invited to join the Independent Jewelers Association, a prominent organization, in the late 1970's. The Independent Jewelers Association is the largest jewelry buyers group in the world.
It was with this group that Eugene and his second wife, Joan, traveled throughout the world in search of colored gemstones and diamonds. Joan had been an important part of the business since the 1960's, and after her marriage to Eugene in 1982, she became a key person in the family store until her retirement in 1992.
Family Tradition Eugene and Betty's three sons grew up around the jewelry business. The oldest, David, became a physician. The two younger sons, Donald and Robert, both joined the family business after college. In 1973, Don came to work full time, and Bob followed in 1978.
Don Smith began working for the family store when he was twelve years old. He learned how to engrave and made many of the deliveries. Don remembers nervously transporting fine wedding china on the back of his bicycle. He graduated from Ohio University, then attended Gem City College to prepare himself for the jewelry business.
Bob Smith graduated from The Ohio State University in 1977, then spent a year in residency at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in Santa Monica, California where he earned his Graduate Gemologist Degree. In 1989, he became one of the first individuals in America to earn the prestigious title of Graduate Gemologist Appraiser awarded by the American Gem Society.
When Eugene Smith passed away in August 1992, Don and Bob were prepared to carry on his traditions of quality and service. Don recalls, "Dad had a real feel for certain things. Paperwork was unimportant to him. But he knew what people would like. They enjoyed coming in to visit. He treated people as though they were special."
The Fox Farm Inn is one of Chillicothe, Ohio's historic treasures. Dr. Jonathan Miesse built the large Federal-Styled home around 1843, on a 1.5 acre tract of land. Later, Dr. Miesse purchased 11 additional acres.
The property changed hands several times after his death in 1885. Scioto Valley Silver Fox Ranch opened in 1924 at the home, hence the name, "Fox Farm." Arthur l. Turnipseed, manager of the ranch, mated pairs of silver foxes and sold them to investors for $1500. The farm was a very popular Sunday afternoon outing during the 1920's, but stayed in business for less than 5 years.
In 1935 Carson Dresbach founded the famous "Fox Farm Inn" restaurant. It changed hands several times over the next 60 years, finally closing its doors permanently in August of 1992.
E.M. Smith Jewelers brought the Historic building back to life when they purchased it in January of 1993. Extensive renovations began in March and the doors of the new E.M Smith Jewelers and Fox Farm Gift Gallery opened on July 2, 1993.
Shortly after Don Smith’s retirement from the business in 2013, Bob’s daughter Taylor joined the business after spending several years in the banking industry. She learned the business from the ground up, beginning with managing the repair department while studying gemology and later, taking over the responsibilities of store manager.
It was during this time that the rebirth and revitalization of downtown Chillicothe had begun. Numerous restaurants and retail shops had opened their doors and it once again was alive with activity. With Bob’s approaching retirement, and after much soul searching, he and Taylor decided to make a major change in the business. They made the decision to sell their beloved Fox Farm property and move back downtown where it all had begun in 1948.
The new E.M. Smith Family Jewelers was born in July of 2020, returning to our roots and joining many other local shop, restaurant and business owners focused on rebuilding our local economy and making our beautiful downtown the center of economic activity in Chillicothe once again.