Ask an expert - CJ GRAD, JEWELRY DESIGNER
Last updated 11/30/2022 at 5:29pm | View PDF
What's next after Caffray closes?
Caffray Jewellers in Hinsdale's Grant Square has never been just about making and selling jewelry. The store's tagline is "making fine jewelry and friends," and owner CJ Grad said that during these last days in business, she's constantly reminded of just how many of both she has created.
Some are happy and some are sad, Grad said of the customers visiting the store in its final weeks. Others are panicked about where they'll take their watches for repair.
"I've assured them I'll still do custom work," she said. But at age 61, Grad said she is ready to see what else life might have to offer.
Grad learned to solder, engrave and repair jewelry as a teenager while working at a jewelry store. Always one with an eye for beauty and a knack for creativity, the design part of what would become her career came naturally.
That career will come to an end early next year, when Grad and Dave Schulte, her business partner and husband, hand over the keys to the store's new owner.
"I'm taking my name with me," said Grad, who created the name Caffray by combining several family names into a single word. But the store, its contents and even the Caffray Jewellers armored truck all will soon have new owners.
Jewelry, especially custom pieces like those created by Grad, are never just bracelets, necklaces and rings. Each tells a story and holds memories for its owner.
"My customers tell me I should write a book," Grad said. That book would include stories ranging from beautiful to crazy, and it definitely would include the one of a longtime customer who once heard she could clean her jewelry by boiling it. That customer brought her burned jewelry, melted colander and all, to Grad to salvage.
"Most stores probably would have said it's garbage," Grad said, but she restored it to something beautiful, and certainly memorable. In fact, that customer still mentions the incident whenever she visits the store.
Unique challenges were an exciting part of the job for Grad, who also performed small repairs, custom creations and complete redesigns, intentional and not.
Grad said she'll take a lot of stories, memories and friends with her, but the best thing to come of her years at Caffray is her husband. A jewelry maker and creative person himself, Schulte met Grad in an Oak Brook parking lot. Soon, the two became partners both in business and in life.
Grad said she's a strong believer in God's plan, and she's eager to find out what he has planned next. She and Schulte have purchased a home in Florida, where they eventually will move, and where Grad may put her cooking skills to work as a private cook on the megayacht captained by her son.
"It's a dream and it's coming true," said Grad, who wants to retire while she still has time and health on her side. But until then, she has one more busy holiday season to experience and more jewelry to create.
"I'm still making merchandise," Grad said, and making a few final memories for herself and her customers.
- by Sandy Illian Bosch