The Early Years
Altemueller Jewelry opened in 1902 by Henry Altemueller, Mark and Carl Noelke's great 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, Mark and Carl's grandfather, 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, Mark and Carl’s father, was the last of the five sons involved. He started working at the store in the early '40s when he was 16 and worked 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.
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.
Cyril passed away in 2017 at the age of 91. Up until the weeks before his passing, he still worked at the store each day repairing jewelry, starting his day around 9:30am and wrapping up around 6pm. Over his nearly 70 years at Altemueller Jewelry, he was a mentor to many. His sons Mark and Carl aim to keep his legacy alive by providing the same kindness, service, and spirit Cyril gave to the family business.
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 greeting cards to $50,000 diamonds. Our store store carries diverse lines of jewelry, watches, clocks, grandfather clocks, and gifts. About 80 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, we attend several different shows throughout the year. We aim to develop relationships with our 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." We hope that you have the chance to visit our family-owned store and let us show you why we have been in business for over 100 years.
*Some text paraphrased from an article appearing in the Washington Missourian August 14, 2002.