Jewelers Suite JHJ Magazine

When Life Gives You Lemons…

written by Shellie Bill

For Fred & Sheri Lien it felt like the walls were caving in, both figuratively and literally.  It was the beginning of March and they were told that the building that housed their fourth-generation jewelry store was being put up for sale and they were concerned that they would need to relocate once the building sold.  Change was not something that was new to them.  Throughout the history of the store, the family became accustomed to the ups and downs of the business, but nothing prepared them for what was next.  They soon realized that this new chapter of the store’s rocky history was one that no one could have ever imagined.

The history of Lien’s Jewelry began after the family of farmers immigrated from Norway.  Most of the family scattered to other areas of the United States, but O.S. Lien chose to attend watchmaking school in St. Paul, MN.  He then started his first jewelry store in 1903 in the once booming town of Omemee, ND.  During the 1920s, the population began to shift to other geographic areas and they shifted as well and moved their store to Bottineau, ND.  Throughout the next 100 years, the family and the business navigated continual population shifts, store moves, droughts and untimely deaths within the family, amongst other circumstances.  This brought them to their current location where they have been since 1990.

In 2005 Fred & Sheri purchased the store from Fred’s parents.  This was only the beginning of their roller coaster ride.  It always seemed like every time things started to get easier, something else would happen.  Within months of purchasing the store, Fred’s father passed away and then a few short years later, they were hit hard by the recession of 2008.  They still persevered.  In 2011, they were hit by a major flood and while the store did not flood, the access to the store was severely limited by the flood waters. Again, they persevered.  The oil boom was great, but also caused the cost of living to increase astronomically.  Once the oil boom was over, the city began a major street project, which basically shut down the downtown area during the summers for three years.  What could happen next?

They were just starting to recover from everything, then they became faced with issues with their building and to make matters worse, this all began at the beginning of the pandemic. A young couple was interested in purchasing the building for an investment and thankfully wanted to keep Lien’s Jewelry in the current location.  At the beginning of March, a structural engineer was hired to inspect the building. After a short inspection, Fred & Sheri were informed that he did not feel the building was safe and that it was in imminent danger of collapse.  The building owner then scheduled another engineer for the following week to provide a second opinion  In the meantime, the building owner, the property manager and the contractor came to inspect the building and could not find any damage, but later that day six people from the fire department showed up unannounced.

Fred & Sheri were definitely not prepared for what would happen next.  On Friday the 13th they were blindsided when they were told that the building that had been the home to their family store for the last 30 years was condemned and they had three days to evacuate.  What should they do now?  Do they find a temporary or permanent location and how quickly can any of this be done at the beginning of a global pandemic?  What if they move and they are forced to close down, how do they pay the rent without any income?  At this point, there were so many unknowns, how could they possibly know what to do.  They believed that this was the final nail in the coffin, but with some quick thinking, they took what they thought was a horrific nightmare and decided that they could take those lemons and make lemonade!

They decided that they just weren’t going to move.  Just in case this wasn’t the right decision, they didn’t want to be caught unprepared.  Over the weekend, they quickly packed up the entire store’s inventory and stored it in the safe with the intent to move it to a bank vault on Monday.  The second engineer was able to reschedule and come in sooner and did a much more thorough investigation and at the end of the day, his thorough investigation showed that although there was some work necessary, the building was secure and in no danger of collapse.  They were able to secure a construction permit in days instead of weeks.  They were still not out of the woods yet, construction started and then it stopped, then it started again.

They ended up being closed for approximately 1½ weeks longer than the pandemic closedown and used this time to remodel the store.  They are once again open and have a fresh outlook to go along with the fresh look of the store.  They are still working to get everything displayed, but their guests have been extremely understanding and supportive.  It has been good to have something to be positive about and business has picked up.  They are operating with shorter hours and under CDC guidelines.

The couple who was going to the purchase the building has backed out, but Fred & Sheri are choosing to remain positive.  They do have a specified amount of time to relocate just in case a new owner requires them to move.  The specified amount of time is much longer than the original time of three days!

They look forward to being able to schedule a Re-Grand Opening in the future.