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Minnesotan To Meet: Gittelson Jewelers' Father-Son Team

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- It's a tiny space with big sparkle, and if you walk the skyway in Downtown Minneapolis, you've likely walked right by it.

Gene Gittelson opened his store Gittelson Jewelers 30 years ago, and now his son is following father's footsteps. He had worked first for Dayton's, and then managed two national stores.

"I took a long lunch one day and came into this area here, and there was a jeweler here I heard wanted to leave," Gittelson said.

Wanting to open his own place, he jumped at the chance to be in the skyway, which at the time was a new idea.

"You can get 3,500 to 7,000 people a day walking by this store," Gittelson said.

He got word out through the paper and attended events to meet potential customers. One night at a bar downtown, he met a legendary Twin.

"Kirby Puckett was one of my best customers and one of my very best friends," Gittelson said.

After the 1987 World Series, he asked Puckett to help him with a promotion. Customers who spent $100 got a signed ball.

Gene Gittelson with Kirby Puckett
(credit: CBS)

At 15 years old, Gittelson's son Mike watched the crowd and the superstar with awe.

"It was like I was on a cloud," Mike Gittelson said.

Since then, more famous faces have been hung up on the wall. While he was trying to make it as an actor, Mike Gittelson sold jewelry to the rich and famous in Beverly Hills.

"You're selling life and happiness and heirlooms," Mike Gittelson said.

Back in Minnesota, the two try to make sure us regular people feel important too. The internet may be changing the game, but this father-son team uses old fashioned word-of-mouth to get the sale done.

"It's always a touch-and-feel kind of business. You see stuff online for sure, but people are going to come in and touch and feel it," Mike Gittelson said.

The elder Gittelson learned the technique from his own salesman father and is now passing it on to his son. Turns out, customers are getting passed down as well.

"My dad's been here three generations," Mike Gittelson said, "so I have kids and grandkids come in."

It's a diamond in the skyway that may just leave you feeling like part of the family.

Gene has always lived in Minnesota. He was proud to tell WCCO he graduated from North High School.

When asked what keeps him here, he said because his business is in the skyway, he actually "loves the cold winter days."

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