T Kelly Jewelers closes its doors after 23 years

Long-time sole proprietor Timothy Twedt cited health reasons for the upcoming closing of his jewelry business in downtown Champaign.

Twedt, owner of T Kelly Jewelers, said the closing is “100 percent due to my health” and not in any way related to the economic recession. He plans to close up shop by the end of June.

Twedt has owned and operated T Kelly Jewelers for the last 23 years. He started on campus at the University in 1986 before moving downtown in 1996. He moved to his current location at 1 E. Main when the One Main Development building opened five years ago.

In addition to being the owner of T Kelly Jewelers, Twedt has been the sole employee for more than two decades. As a self-described “one-man show,” Twedt has had close interaction with customers on a daily basis, which he relishes.

“It’s my livelihood, it’s what I do,” Twedt said. “Every customer gets 100-percent me … (I have) very devoted customers, and you get that with this kind of a business.”

As a rare sole proprietor, Twedt feels like he is the last of a generation.

“Years ago, there were a lot of businesses that were run like this,” Twedt said. “You had a reliable person you could go to get whatever – in this case it’s your jewelry – but nowadays not too many places are run like this anymore. This is sort of the old school … I have been the last of a dying breed for a long time.”

Twedt has utilized an interesting business strategy that is not uncommon for small business owners in that he does not advertise. Rather, he gets customers through word of mouth and loyalty. By not shelling out money for advertising, Twedt has kept his overhead costs low, something he said has helped him “afford to sell better quality for less.”

The lack of advertising can be a drawback at times, as some in the local community don’t know about T Kelly Jewelers. Champaign resident Jennifer Hoss was one such person, as she visited Twedt’s business for the first time Wednesday. Hoss was interested in seeing the sales of up to 70 percent off but said she usually goes to jewelry stores at the mall in Champaign.

“It’s convenient, that’s where I’m always at,” Hoss said of why she frequents jewelry stores at the mall.

Robert Laible, owner of Robert’s jewelry store at 28 Chester Street in Champaign, has run his small business with just one additional employee for nine years and advertises very little. Laible thought he might pick up a few of Twedt’s customers but not many because his business focuses on repairs and custom work more than retail.

“Timothy is a very nice guy. He’s been in business a long time,” Laible said.

“It’s always a shame to have another business close.”