Mike and Carol Griep have owned and operated Griep's Jewelry in Pine River since 1980 after they bought the business from Mike's father, Erwin.
When Mike Griep sits at his bench to fix a watch, or when he is selling a license tab, he knows he's following in his father's footsteps.
In 1957, Mike's parents, Erwin and Pauline, made the move to Pine River.
When the owner of Alto's Jewelry in Pine River decided to retire in 1957, Erwin bought the owner out and changed the name of the business to Griep's Jewelry.
Prior to the move, Erwin worked in a jewelry store in Sauk Center and had come to the Pine River area to hunt with a group of friends.
For more than half of a century, Griep's Jewelry has stood on Barclay Avenue in Pine River.
The business used to be located next door to the Iron Hills North Gun and Pawn in the space formerly occupied by Cass County Books.
While Erwin worked in the store, his wife, Pauline, became the school nurse at Pine River and held that position for many years. She was previously a public health nurse.
Soon after purchasing the business, Erwin was appointed by Minnesota Secretary of State Joseph L. Donovan to serve as a Deputy Registrar in 1959.
Before Erwin was appointed the position, it was held by Ted Hill of Hill's Hardware. When Ted retired, Erwin was appointed.
Deputy registrars are appointed to sell licenses and vehicle tabs among many other things.
Mike remembers that when his dad was first appointed all vehicles were required to get a new license plate every year in December.
"It got pretty busy at the end of the year. Everyone had to get their license in their legislative district, so all of the licenses started with the number seven because we used to be in the seventh district. We would have a lot of license plates stacked up everywhere," Mike said.
When Mike purchased the business from his dad in 1980, he had the business appointed to continue on the tradition. When Mike decides to retire, he can choose to hand down the appointment or he could sell it to another business.
According to Mike, there are around 159 Deputy Registrar offices in Minnesota, but the majority of the offices are operated by cities or counties. Because the state wanted to give people who live in rural areas easy access to a deputy registrar's office, but could not afford to have offices in many rural areas, they appointed private businesses to serve in that capacity.
"We are not directly paid by any government. We get money from the filing fees," Mike said.
After graduating from Pine River High School, Mike spent some time in the military and when his dad made the decision to retire, Mike went to school.
He attended St. Paul Tech studying watchmaking after earning a degree in political science from St. Cloud State.
Watchmaker school was 11 months and he apprenticed for two years. For about 15 years, he was licensed by the Minnesota Board of Examiners in watchmaking, until having a license was no longer required.
At watchmaker school, Mike learned to make a watch completely from scratch, a talent his father, Erwin, also shared. In fact, on the wall of the store hangs a mechanical pendulum clock that Erwin made completely from scratch many years ago.
The clock is made of wood from 27 different countries and the movements were made by hand.
"It still runs, but I can't ever remember to wind it," Mike said with a laugh.
In 1989, business had outgrown the original building, and Griep's Jewelry made the move down the street to its current location.
Mike runs the business along with his wife, Carol, and with help from his sister, Terrie Griep, when things get busy.
Along with the deputy registrar side of the business, Mike sells retail jewelry, fixes jewelry and watches, and does engraving including on trophies and plaques.
With more than 50 years of family tradition in the jewelry business, Mike says that his favorite part is actually the people he meets.
"I get to spend a lot of time with people here in the store. I get to know a lot of people in the community and be involved with the community," Mike said.
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