Johnson treated his customers like family

Longtime Hastings jeweler passes away

By Bruce Karnick

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In Hastings, there are two spots people think of to get jewelry and R.L. Johnson Jewelers in the Midtown Shopping Center is certainly the most visible. Tucked neatly behind Perkins, R.L. Johnson Jewelers is in a can’t miss location at 1202 Vermillion St. Dick and Reba Johnson opened their store in 1985 and since then, thousands of Hastings residents have purchased that special gift for that special someone from them.

Dick and Reba worked diligently for 27 years building a business based on treating customers like family. Through their store, they helped celebrate many of life’s special milestones with multiple generations of families. Being a family business, when they retired in 2011, their son Tom Johnson, a 1992 graduate of Hastings, took over the business and he continues the tradition of excellence established by his parents.

Dick passed away surrounded by his family on April 14 after a year long battle with lung cancer at the age of 77. His full obituary was on page 4 of last week’s edition.

The Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce released the following message about Johnson’s passing: “Our condolences go out to the family of Dick Johnson, a longtime Hastings business owner who passed away on Thursday, April 14th after a courageous battle with lung cancer.

“Dick treated his customers like family, and Johnson Jewelers was a place to celebrate many of life’s special milestones with multi generations of customers through the years.

There wasn’t a better person his father to learn the jewelry business from, said Tom.

I started working here in 1999,” explained Tom Johnson. “It was important to make sure we treated people the right way, to earn their trust. You don’t make it long, especially in the jewelry business if people don’t trust you. There is a saying in the business, ‘if you don’t know jewelry, know your jeweler.’ That’s because a lot of the time, people walk out the door and they still do not truly know what they have, but they trust you. I know nothing about cars, so when I go to my mechanic for an oil change, if he says ‘you need new brakes’, I have to trust him. That is a key to this business.”

This community staple is a place that you can go to for a friendly smile while they change your watch battery or order your engagement ring and their clever advertising is something that cannot be missed. From supporting the Hastings Hawks amateur baseball team with ads that say “show her your best pitch, we promise she won’t lay off this one” to their comedic billboards on Highway 55 near the refinery, Tom does a great job continuing the family feel of R.L Johnson Jewelers.

Growing up watching his dad, Johnson learned an important lesson, “He was able to make people feel at ease right away. That was something hard to learn, but it was obvious. You need to be able to connect with people, make them feel comfortable.”

On the business side, the Johnson’s have always worked from the point of view that the customer is number one.

“It’s one thing he left me with. If you ever come to a situation where you fall short of being able to come through for your customer, always give them more than they expect. Even when you goof up, admit it, make it right and move forward,” Johnson said.

Longtime Hastings residents may be wondering, where did the “R.L.” portion come from in the name? Richard ‘Dick’ Lowell Johnson made his mark on the Hastings community being a trusted business and community friend for a very long time, and his legacy lives on through his store and his family.

April 27, 2022