May 17, 2013 Updated: May 17, 2013 at 9:50 am
What started as a roadside jewelry business peddling $2 American Indian rings is now an upscale jeweler selling full-carat diamonds and other precious stones.
Johannes Hunter Jewelers is celebrating its 25th year in Colorado Springs this week, but the jewelry store's roots reach across three states and more than 30 years. The store, which began in downtown and is now at University Village Colorado, 5182 N. Nevada Ave. Suite 100, is named after Linda Johannes Hunter, 67, and her husband, Glenn Hunter.
Linda Hunter started selling jewelry "by chance" in Bozeman, Mont., in 1975. Her then-boyfriend, who rode competitive motocross throughout the Western states, returned to Bozeman that year with a collection of American Indian rings he had purchased at one of his competitions.
"We sold them beside the road out of a shoebox," Hunter said.
Soon after, the two landed a contract with the Yellowstone Park Co. and began supplying jewelry to some stores within Yellowstone National Park. As business grew, Hunter opened a store in 1976 in Bozeman.
Somewhere along the way, the motocross man rode away and, in 1980, Hunter sold her interest in the Bozeman store and moved to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, where she opened Johannes and Co. About four months later, she met jeweler Glenn Hunter, who was working at Clark's Jewelry.
The two fell in love. But marrying Linda and working for Clark's would have been a conflict of interest for Glenn Hunter, so he quit and was about to become a traveling wholesale jewelry salesman when his future wife made him an offer.
"She said, ?Hey, let's go into business together,'" Glenn Hunter said.
Glenn Hunter had been in jewelry for a decade, starting in Chicago in 1971. Three years later, he moved to Los Angeles to manage a Zales store. Soon after, he opened his own store in Glendale, Calif. Tired of "the rat race," he moved to Coeur d'Alene in 1976.
"Glenn was in jewelry long before I was," Linda Hunter said, "and he had far more knowledge than I, so we combined talents."
The two married on April 4, 1981. They opened a second store in 1982 in Sandpoint, Idaho. The stores sold "modestly priced" jewelry, Linda Hunter said.
"It would be inexpensive things at lower price points that you hope you could get enough customers to buy enough to put food on the table," she said
Linda Hunter has two daughters that work with her - Brenda Hunter-Boyd, 49, and Robin Johannes, 48, Both began working with her while living in Idaho.
The Hunters closed their Sandpoint store and sold the Coeur d'Alene one in 1988 to move to the Springs to be in a larger jewelry market. They opened a store downtown at 202 N. Tejon St. After 14 years, wanting to expand, they moved to 124 N. Tejon St. The store moved from downtown to University Village Colorado in November 2011.
Glenn Hunter worked with his wife until 2000, then opened Glenn's Jewelry and Loan on North Academy Boulevard. The couple recently celebrated their 32nd wedding anniversary.
Linda Hunter said both Glenn and selling jewelry give her "just as big a thrill as they did 32 years ago."
"If you can see the smile on people's faces when they are gifted with an important piece of jewelry, they just glow. And when the guy you helped pick that piece out comes back to tell you he is just as happy, well, there is tremendous satisfaction in selling that piece, and it never diminishes."
Contact Ned Hunter: 636-0275.