A One-of-a-Kind Store
By Ann Stergiou
When Tim Kautsch was a young boy, he and his brother, Kevin, collected rocks during their family vacations to Colorado and South Dakota. Boxes and boxes of rocks made their way back to the Kautsch home in Nebraska. At the time, Tim’s father was taking lapidary classes (that is, the art of cutting stones) at an Omaha store called Custom Gems. The owners of the store, Ed and Erma Pharaoh, heard about Tim’s rock collection and told him he should learn to make jewelry with his stones. Tim’s first reaction was, “No way, that’s girl stuff.” The more he learned about lapidary, though, the cooler it seemed. Eventually, he decided to join in the fun. He had no idea he was headed for a career repairing, creating, and designing jewelry.
Tim started taking classes at Custom Gems in 1989, after it had moved to its current location off 84th and Frederick. Two years later, after he graduated from high school in 1991, he went full-time at Custom Gems and earned his gemologist degree from the Gemological Institute of America. In 2005, he took over the management of Custom Gems, and he became the owner in 2009.
“Owning a business is not easy,” Tim shares. “Balancing the duties required of being a business owner can be stressful.” Fortunately, Tim has several really good people to share in these duties, and that is his top recommendation to anyone thinking of starting a business of their own: “Surround yourself with good people.”
At Custom Gems, these good people include Dustin Clayton, Heather Steele, Inna Zevakina, and Tim’s brother, Kevin Kautsch. Dustin specializes in stone setting and customized pieces, Kevin primarily handles laser welding and repairs, Heather makes jewelry, and Inna takes care of bead restringing. Tim is an expert in all these areas, and he is delighted to work with so many talented people, all of whom help each other out with everything that’s necessary to keep their customers happy. Added together, this talented group brings over 70 years of collective experience to Custom Gems, and they’re all ready to create, repair, design, or polish your next special piece.
People rely on Tim and his staff for many different things, like repairing damaged jewelry, creating a custom-designed piece, or reusing their own sentimental pieces to create something more modern. “People trust me with their family heirlooms,” Tim acknowledges, and he doesn’t take that responsibility lightly. His customer service philosophy is simple: “Make sure everybody’s happy, be honest, and do the best you can.” He never wants anyone to walk out of his store not liking their purchase. “I hate having unsatisfied customers, and I will do anything I can to make sure that doesn’t happen.” As you can imagine, this philosophy leads to a lot of repeat customers. A card from customer Susan Matthews reads: “I want to thank you for the beautiful ring you created for me. I’m totally impressed by the workmanship. You have yet to disappoint me. I’ve already received many oohs and ahhs.”
If all of this sounds good so far, just wait until you actually visit the store. You’ll see displays of stones, rocks, gems, fossils, jewelry, and much more. These items come from all over the world, including places as far flung as Brazil, Madagascar, and Russia. The store is currently undergoing an expansion to make room for their newest designer and to create a larger, more spacious layout to display their vast array of jewelry and art.
In the back of the store is a full laboratory, which houses everything they need to repair and create jewelry. All of the work at Custom Gems is done on-site. The lab boasts laser welders, rock tumblers, a repair station, a casting station, and much more. Customer Tara Collister shares, “My husband lost the emerald out of his wedding ring.” She took it back to the place it was purchased, and they couldn’t fix it. Fortunately, the team at Custom Gems was able to get the job done. “They did a phenomenal job, and it was done sooner than I expected,” she says. “I will definitely use them again.”
For customers who like to make their own jewelry, Custom Gems sells everything from loose stones and gems to chains and settings, as well as all the tools and polishers a project may call for. They also carry the largest inventory of minerals and fossils in Omaha.
Whether you need a repair, want a piece custom-designed, or like to make your own jewelry, you should check out Custom Gems. You won’t be disappointed. Custom Gems is located at 8487 Frederick Street. They are open Monday through Friday, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Saturdays. For more information, please call 402-397-9606 or visit customgemsomaha.com.
l-r: Heather Steele,
Owner Tim Kautsch,
and Dustin Clayton