The Early Years
Altemueller Jewelry opened in 1902 by Henry Altemueller, Cyril Noelke's uncle by marriage. The original store was located in a building on Second Street in Downtown Washington, MO, and was mainly a music and gift shop. Around 1915, Henry Noelke, Cyril's father, and his brother, John, bought the business from Altemueller. They relocated the store to a building on Elm Street. It was around this time that Altemueller's became primarily a jewelry store, though miscellaneous items like small appliances and gift pieces were still a large part of the inventory.
Five of Henry Noelke's sons--Teddy, Harry, Leonard, Cyril, and Alfred--all owned part of the business at one time or another. Cyril Noelke is the only son still involved. He started working at the store in the early '40s when he was 16 and is now in 60+ years with the company. Cyril learned the basics of watch repair by observing his brother Ted on the job. After two years in the service, Cyril took advantage of the G.I Bill and went to school to study watch and jewelry repair and to learn the art of hand engraving. Although now in his 90s, Cyril has yet to retire. He still goes to the jewelry store around 9:30am every day and works on jewelry repair, wrapping up the day around 8:00 pm.
The Business Grows
By the late 1970s, Altemueller Jewelry had outgrown its location on Elm Street and the family built a new store twice the size directly next door, where the old Grinker Shoe Store once stood. By 1979 Altemueller's again needed more sales space, and the family expanded back into its previous location next door. Mark Noelke joined the business in 1980 after he graduated college. His older brother Carl came onboard in 1994.
The growing business was again forced to relocate in the late 1990s. The store moved to its current location--twice the size of its last--in 1999. In 1985, the family opened a separate Gold Crown Hallmark store across the street from its downtown jewelry store. It has remained downtown, though it moved across the street to where the jewelry store used to be.
Today's Altemueller Jewelry
Mark Noelke started in the repair department and today manages and coordinates the jewelry side of the business. Carl manages the card and gift side of the business. The family prides itself on the store's diversity of merchandise. Items range from gift cards to $50,000 diamonds. The store stocks a complete line of clocks, with everything from grandfather to mantle to alarm. We carry china, Waterford crystal, M.I. Hummel figurines, and many other fine collectables. We also offer a bridal registry.
Of the about 450 vendors we deal with, we average about 20 to 30 items for each vendor. About 50 percent of that is jewelry, and items range from costume items to high dollar and unique pieces. If a customer doesn't see what they want in the display case, we can custom-design or special order what they are looking for.
To keep up on the latest trends, the Noelkes attend several different shows throughout the year. They also pay special attention to what their customers want. They try to develop relationships with customers because it is the customers' requests that keep our styles up-to-date. Looking ahead to the future, the Noelkes say they aim "to keep the tradition of quality and service going."
*Text paraphrased from an article appearing in the Washington Missourian August 14, 2002.