Butte’s Uptown jewelers adapt to thrive


by Jim Larson

Upon first entering Butte Jewelers-Buffalo Gallery, visitors are greeted by the store’s chief of security, Buddy, a tiny black poodle. Clearance to enter is quickly granted as Buddy has a lot of shop to keep an eye on and a great deal of curiosity to satisfy.

Returning to store patrol, Buddy hands his guests off to owners Donna Hollingsworth, Bremer Hollingsworth and their son Shane Hollingsworth. Donna and Bremer opened the shop in 1988. Donna is a Carroll College graduate who worked in the lab at Saint James Hospital and now works part time at Mercury Street Medical.  Bremer worked as a machinist and then obtained an engineering degree at Montana Tech.  His welding skills proved useful when the couple opened Butte Jewelers. Shane attended Montana Tech for a year before turning his full attention to the family business, Donna said.

During a visit last Friday, Donna was kind enough to offer a tour of the business, an operation that fills an entire building at 53 West Broadway, a building that the family owns. 

In the front of the shop are jewelry cases that contain an inventory of considerable variety and quality. The store keeps up with what’s trending. “Colored diamonds are in, and we have a good selection of those,” Donna says.  Popular tungsten bands are in stock, as well as pieces of sterling silver that can be mixed and matched. Butte Jewelers also carries a large inventory of Montana rubies.  “We go to the shows and we stay up on things,” she says. Traditional items are represented as well, including a well-stocked pearl display.

The jewelers also carry a nice selection of mantle clocks, and there is an impressive display of watches, including a Butte Jewelers line. Quality watches with the Montana Tech logo can be purchased there as well, Donna points out.

Upstairs is the Buffalo Gallery, at one time a considerable source of income for the business.    The gallery sold new releases of first edition prints by artists such as Nancy Glazier, a prominent regional wildlife artist. That part of the business has become less important, and has been replaced by framing as the operation’s primary income. The Hollingsworth’s will be sprucing the gallery up for the upcoming Christmas stroll, Donna says.

That part of Butte Jewelry-Buffalo Gallery is operated primarily by Shane. In addition to framing art, Shane creates framed mementos of unusual quality. He incorporates the studio’s advanced engraving equipment and hot stamping capability into framed pieces that capture life events such as graduations and weddings in a unique way.

Bremer notes that a customer would have to travel to Seattle to find engraving equipment comparable to Butte Jewelers’. The store stocks a variety of engravable items. “We have a lot of gifty things,” Donna says.

As part of the upstairs tour, Donna shows a pole bed built by Shane. There are usually several on display, she notes, but they are in great demand, and only one was available to view Friday.

During the Friday visit Donna noted several times that she and Bremer were attempting to be “semi-retired,” but their business keeps them busy. Customers can even bring their knives in to be sharpened.   “We do whatever it takes,” explains Donna, a survival strategy that has kept Butte Jewelers in business for 25 years.