Never mind the old saying — Randy Pedersen has shown that you CAN go home again.
The 69-year-old jeweler who calls himself “The Diamond King” will be stepping down from his throne soon, almost 40 years after he bought a local jewelry store and made a name for himself by building relationships and selling quality diamonds, watches and other jewelry in downtown Wayne.
Pedersen had been a salesman at Zales Jewelry in Omaha and moved to manage a store in the brand new Conestoga Mall in Grand Island when, in the spring of 1978, he got word that the local jewelry store back home in Wayne was up for sale.
“Dale Gutshall owned the store at the time and it was located where The Coffee Shoppe is now, and I found out it was for sale and it was a chance to come home,” he said. “Usually, coming home is a good thing, unless they remember you.”
Fortunately, the Wayne High and Wayne State graduate was able to buy the store and rename it The Diamond Center and built his business by selling jewelry, collectibles and other gifts at its original location.
“We had a lot of costume jewelry and a lot of collectibles like Budweiser steins, Royal Dalton gifts and Christmas houses that were collectibles, but this is a different generation that doesn’t collect things as much,” he said.
Business was good back then, as the shopping malls in Sioux City were still just a dream and the downtown shopping atmosphere in Wayne was much more active. Still, Pedersen was looking for a way to better market his business when a friend and fellow businessman made an offbeat suggestion.
“Mike Perry had the Chevrolet dealership out where Pac N Save is now and we had become friends, and I told him one day that I really needed to do something to promote my diamonds, and he suggested I call myself The Diamond King,” he said. “He told me, ‘Who’s going to dispute it?’”
Pedersen rented a crown and cape and began promoting himself and his business and had fun with the marketing scheme, wearing the costume in local parades and at the occasional Wayne State football game.
“For a lot of years, I’d go to a Wayne State football game and give away a pair of diamond earrings to someone, so we had a lot of fun with it,” he said. “It took a while to catch on, but now people call me “the king” and even make checks out to The Diamond King.”
Between that and his quirky, humorous advertising in the local newspaper and on the local radio station, he has built a business that has withstood the challenges of small-town business by the big boys in the larger metropolitan areas.
“When I started advertising, I always played on emotion and never did a price-product thing, because the big boys want you to promote your price so they can beat you to death with it,” he said. “The best part is when I tagged my ads with ‘They don’t call me The Diamond King because I sell a lot of pearls.’ To this day, everywhere I go people ask me how the pearl business is.”
Pedersen remained at his original location until 2002, when he moved into his current location at 221 Main Street, a building that had some dubious history to it when he bought it.
The building housed a floral shop, but was also the scene of a unique crime that involved false imprisonment and sexual torture. The owner of the building and another man were arrested for kidnapping a Texas man they had met on the internet and holding him against his will for almost two weeks before he was able to escape.
“I had read an article a number of years ago about a jewelry store in Indiana or Illinois that sold diamonds, wine, gourmet food and flowers, and I thought that was a great marketing idea, so I decided to buy this building in February and we gutted everything out of the basement and upstairs and were selling flowers by Mother’s Day,” he said.
Flowers, wine and jewelry have been staples of the business ever since, and the opportunity to do business with people at special times of their lives has made it even more fun for Pedersen over the years.
“In 40 years I’ve sold to parents and then to their kids, and that’s the cool part,” he said. “How many lives have I been involved with between the engagements, weddings, anniversaries, birthdays and other special events in peoples’ lives? It’s amazing how much fun you can have getting to know these people and celebrating their special occasions with them.”
Pedersen used to travel all over the world to find diamonds for his customers. His frequent trips to South Africa and Israel gave him a chance to see rough diamonds turned into works of art that he has been able to bring back and sell to his customers here in Wayne America.
“Actually buying the cut and polished diamond and getting to go to the facility and seeing them cut the diamonds is amazing,” he said. “Israel has cutting factories everywhere and their diamond distribution center in Tel Aviv is the biggest in the world.”
As technology has advanced, Pedersen has used it to help his business and keep up with the times.
“Social media has changed business dramatically,” he said. “You’d be surprised how much I sell just by texting customers when there is a special going on that I think they’d like. It’s amazing how much business I do that way.”
A recent Facebook Live video he shot on his company’s Facebook page netted more than 21,000 hits within 24 hours. Between that and his after-hour appointments, his business has continued to thrive.
So why step down form the throne?
Pedersen has been dealing with Parkinson’s disease for several years now, and he felt that it is time to start a new chapter of his life.
“I’ve had Parkinson’s the last seven years, and my health has been better with the Rock Steady Boxing program I’m involved with at Providence Wellness Center, and if that hadn’t have happened I’d probably still be going,” he said. “But it’s time to write a new chapter in my life. My wife, Rozan, is retired after working a number of years at Great Dane and we want to do some traveling and spend time with our grandchildren in South Carolina. I also love to hunt and fish so it’s time to move on.”
Greta Smith, a longtime employee of Pedersen’s, is going to keep the building open as a flower shop, but Pedersen’s is in the middle of a “going out of business” sale and hopes to have most of his inventory sold by the time he’s ready to call it quits for good.
And while he’ll keep an office at the building and will be on call for longtime customers who are looking for a diamond, he said he will have nothing but good memories from his 40 years as Wayne’s very own Diamond King.
“When you have fun doing it and wake up every morning saying this is going to be the greatest day of your life, it’s been a lot of hard work but it’s been a blast,” he said. “It’s a great business and the community has been great and my employees were my biggest assets. The gold and diamonds are physical assets, but you don’t sell them without great employees and I’ve had wonderful and loyal employees over the years.”
Long live The (Diamond) King.