Together, Kalee and Pearl insure that everyone who comes to the door feels welcomed. Kalee grins, “I love what I do. I get to play with pretty things and help make people happy. Not many people get to say that about their professions.”
With more jewelers carrying the line each year, Sholdt has carved a distinct presence in the trade. Influencing future markets with new forms and motifs, their jewelry speaks for itself through its craftsmanship and heart. The wonders of their jewelry creations, all actualized in house, bring people back time and time again. Yet always, for Kalee and the Sholdt family, it will always be about more than jewelry – it’s about family, friends, and life.
In early 2014, Brian and Dusty’s career goals felt fulfilled and it had come time for them to hang up their hats. Kalee, the fourth generation Sholdt, took over ownership on the eve of what will be Sholdt’s 80th year in business. Having been immersed in the jewelry world since childhood, Kalee felt at ease committing to continue the institution that her family had created.
“I remember coming into the shop when I was a little girl,” says Kalee. “My grandpa would give my siblings and me pennies to roll out in the mill. We would pump up waxes from the old molds to find the coolest ones . It’s something I remember so vividly. Never in a million years did I expect to run the family business. Now here I am!”
And avid lover of people, Kalee’s workday is gratified by her interactions with those who knock on Sholdt’s door. It’s been through her work in the office, and with the craftsmen, that she’s come into her own. Her boisterous laugh, ready smile, and lifelong knowledge of the trade blurs the line between business and genuine friendship. On any given day, you’ll find the little furry face of Pearl, the shop dog/door greeter, sitting next to Kalee – Pearl keeps her smiling as she owns and operates the business that bears her last name.
As sales of the line grew and orders kept coming in, the boys were often pressed to expand their operations overseas to keep up with the growing demand. However, Brian and Dusty remained true to the Sholdt way of business and vowed to keep production in Seattle. They continued to employ the most gifted craftsmen available and took on new work only when they felt readily able. As a long-term result, many of Sholdt’s employees have been with the company for 25 years or more and each piece from the line is created with the utmost care.
“I think our biggest strength is the talented team that we work with,” says Kalee, who joined the brothers in business in 2007. “Together, we have the ability to create anything a client wants or needs. We have so much accumulated knowledge that it allows us to do and try what others won’t touch. It’s our niche.”
Throughout the ’80s, advancements in the trade allowed jewelry retailers to host repairs in-house instead of employing trade shops. Sholdt had heed to this changing trend and adapt to the times. Brian and Dusty began augmenting their repair work with a small custom line known as “Rain City Rings”. Brian took the reins with design work, and Dusty stepped up from the workbench to oversee operations. To give their line a more personal feel, the name was soon changed to “Sholdt”.
Because Sholdt employed its own shop – a rare thing in the trade – the designs were conceptualized with the input of the craftsmen that would build them. As a result, the wedding rings embodied a perfect blend of artistry, beauty, and emotion. Customers and critics embraced them wholeheartedly.
In the years that followed, Sholdt was honored with several important design awards, including the AGTA Spectrum Award Best of Show and the prestigious DeBeers Diamonds Today Award.
In 1963 Milton’s oldest son, Milton Jr., gave up his first career as a carpenter and turned to the more alluring family business. Together Milton Jr. and his wife, Patricia, cared for the business for two decades. Through his kind demeanor and patient outlook on life, Milton Jr. grew to be known for outstanding customer service. Behind the scenes, he housed a dogged determination to provide the utmost quality. As a result, he and Patricia hired only the most talented jewel-smiths. By the time he sold the company to his sons, Brian and Dusty, Sholdt had become known throughout the trade as the preeminent repair shop in Seattle.
The Sholdt history dates all the way back to 1935. Seattle was a different place back then – The Pike Place Market still allowed livestock. Boeing’s newest aircraft was the prop-driven 247. Bill Gates and Howard Schultz wouldn’t even be born for another twenty years. A young man named Milton Sholdt purchased a fledgling jewelry repair business and set up shop. He spent those early years doing trade-work for the local jewelry retailers. He was an outgoing, friendly man that loved to travel. A true firecracker, Milton was also an enthusiastic drinker and playful lady’s man.
“My dad would tell me stories from his childhood,” says Kalee, “of watching Great Granddad taking sips off of a glass of Old Rocking Chair Whiskey. I doubt Milton ever envisioned the business going this far.”
Milton’s original safe, with the words “Milton H. Sholdt” hand-painted in gilded lettering, still stands in the shop today. Inside of the safe’s heavy door lies a smaller combination lock-box that hasn’t been opened in 60 years.
“I have no idea what’s in there,” says Kalee. “Somewhere along the way the combination got lost. We can’t get into it without ruining the safe, so everyone just let it be. Why spoil the mystery now? It’s a part of my family’s story.”