"Merritt Jewelers of Pequot Lakes is a solid business that chooses to stay in Pequot Lakes. They are always willing to lend a hand in the community ... Their service and quality products make shopping there a no-brainer."
"Few other Pequot Lakes businesses can boast the level of community involvement for the number of years that Merritt Jewelers can! And few small towns have the benefit of a locally owned, community-minded jewelry store!"
"Merritt Jewelers has been in Pequot Lakes for 34 years. They keep finding new ways to add activities or enhance existing activities to Pequot Lakes."
So read several nominations for Merritt Jewelers as Pequot Lakes Business of the Year. For those reasons, as well as Merritt Jewelers' leadership in both the marketplace and the community, that business will be honored in July as the 2018 Pequot Lakes Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year.
Criteria to be nominated for the award included the business had to be a Pequot Lakes Chamber member and had to be in the Pequot Lakes, Breezy Point or Jenkins area.
"I was honestly very surprised," said Barb Merritt, who has owned the downtown jewelry store with her husband, Don, for the past 32 years. "Surprised and very honored."
She learned of the recognition Friday, June 15, at her store when Pequot Lakes Chamber staff and advisory board members showed up with flowers.
"I don't think I've ever seen you shocked like that," said Kevin O'Hern, Merritt Jewelers goldsmith for the past 20 years.
Barb and O'Hern run the show after Don retired from the jewelry store several years ago. His father, Don Merritt Sr., opened the store on Front Street in August 1984, one door down from its current location. Two years later, Don Jr. and Barb took over, moving the store to its current location 21 years ago.
That move doubled the store's size to a 3,000-square-foot showroom that features 22 showcases of jewelry.
"I couldn't do it without Kevin," Barb said.
Don said the Business of the Year honor is fantastic.
"I give absolutely 100 percent of the credit to Barb. I'm very proud of her," he said.
Merritt Jewelers started as a small, full-service jewelry store with an emphasis on service, and it continues that tradition today by selling, designing, creating, cleaning, repairing and appraising all types of jewelry.
"You can come in here with your chain that needs to be repaired. We can cast and create a piece of jewelry from your old jewelry," Barb said.
The business' website says Barb married into the jewelry business and loves it.
"It's a happy place because most of the reasons you go to a jewelry store are good," she said, citing celebrations like engagements, anniversaries and birthdays. "I like the people."
She credits advertising for the store's longevity, noting the business draws customers from across the region.
The Merritts are also strong supporters of Pequot Lakes, as evidenced by the smiles on both Barb's and Don's faces Saturday, June 16, during the annual Pequot Lakes Pet Pageant they began nine years ago as a pet parade. The smiles and laughs came despite two torrential downpours - one that delayed the event; the other that occured halfway through it.
Don said Barb always wakes up happy and with a smile on her face.
"We really love Pequot Lakes. I just want to see the best for Pequot Lakes," Barb said.
Barb is a founder of Community Action of Pequot Lakes, which now sponsors the pet pageant along with the Miss Pequot Lakes Scholarship Pageant and Santa's Bobbin' Into Town events. Community Action also is responsible for the banners and sponsored benches in town, and the new bobber flower pots.
The community has been good to the Merritts, and Barb said she is happy to give back now that she has time. Her goal for the future is to keep Merritt Jewelers a happy small business.
"I believe Pequot is a thriving community and will continue to be so," she said. "We have a good group of business owners who all care about each other and help promote each other.
"I really do love Pequot and I want to see it move forward," she said.
Business of the Year
The Pequot Lakes Business of the Year (Merritt Jewelers), Citizen of the Year (Renee Anderson) and Volunteers of the Year (to be named) will be recognized at the Bean Hole Days community picnic Tuesday evening, July 10, near the Bean Hole pit and the chamber information center on the south side of Trailside Park.
This will be an annual event.