Downtown York family-owned jewelry shop celebrates 70 years


Three names, three generations, two locations and 70 years later, The Watchmaker's Daughter is still sitting in the heart of downtown York, and ready to celebrate.

The jeweler's gallery at 22 N. Beaver St. will be celebrating its 70th birthday on Friday, Aug. 7, and Saturday, Aug. 8, with live music, refreshments and a gem giveaway.

All in the family: Owner Karen Reiss Staub is the third generation of her family to serve as owner of the shop, following her grandfather, George Reiss, who opened the business in 1945, and her father, Max Reiss. The shop has been named after its owner, labeled previously as George Reiss Jewelers and Max Reiss Jewelers.

Staub said she changed the name to The Watchmaker's Daughter five or six years ago as she took full control and started making the business her own.

Changes included a shift toward more handmade, one-of-a-kind jewelry, less high-end jewelry and various cosmetic improvements.

"But we still do all the same things we used to do with jewelry repair, watch repair, all that good stuff," she said.

Surviving downtown: The shop originally opened on the second floor of the Woolworth Building on West Market Street and moved to its current location in the mid-1960s. The Reiss family has remained, even as businesses have come and gone around them.

"We've seen a lot of ups and downs, and I think York right now is on an upward swing, all good stuff happening," Staub said. "Since I've been here, (downtown) has come a long way, headed in the right direction for sure."

Staub said customer loyalty is the biggest reason her family's business has been able to survive the economic turmoil around it.

"I have customers that come in here that say, 'My grandma bought her first watch in here,'" she said. "Once you build loyalty with people, they trust you, and they send their kids in and so on."

Future: Growing up, Staub said she never planned on eventually taking over for her father.

"I just kind of got sucked up in here," she said, remembering starting out because her dad just needed a little help. "But I really found a passion for it and felt this is where I'm supposed to be."

Max Reiss, 84, still helps out from time to time, Staub said, and she's realized recently that keeping the business in the family is more important than she originally thought.

Staub has a daughter in college and son in high school, but she said she's unsure whether either will eventually take the reins.

"I don't think so, but you never know," she said.

The party: In conjunction with downtown's First Friday from 5 to 9 p.m., the event will feature live music by Josh Leik, birthday refreshments and a sidewalk sale.

The "Great Big Gem Giveaway" will be held Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The first 70 people to visit the store will receive a free gemstone, one of which is a diamond valued at $500. The store also will give away "swag bags" with purchases on Saturday.

"Even though it's our birthday, we want to give back," Reiss said. "It's important for people to know we're still here and come out and support us so we can be here 70 years down the road for everybody."

—Reach David Weissman at