As a 20 year-old, broke college student, I’ll be honest in writing that I was somewhat intimidated as I approached Zickfield’s Jewelry & Gifts, a historic #DowntownCG business celebrating its 80th anniversary. I knew walking past the windows lined with valuable jewelry and painstakingly arranged spring decorations that I would be meeting with owner, Kent Zickfield, the second generation of the Zickfield’s to have worked for years to ensure that the family name would continue to be synonymous with quality in Cape Girardeau.
However, the towering figure of Mr. Zickfield surprised me with a warm welcome, and immediately put me at ease as he regaled me with stories of his family’s past. According to Mr. Zickfield, just after his parents got married, his father was promoted to district manager of Kroger and his mother worked as a school teacher. In order to see each other more often, they decided to both quit their jobs and opened Zickfield’s Jewelry together. But it wasn’t exactly happily ever after from there. When the business opened in 1939, World War II was just beginning. This meant that certain metals were hard to come by since they were reserved for the war efforts. As a result, the design of products changed and watches became scarce. Nevertheless, the Zickfield’s pressed on, and it’s clear that their work ethic was passed on to their son and current owner of the business. When asked what advice he would give to anyone hoping to achieve a successful 80 years in business, Zickfield stated that his personal motto is “endeavor to persevere and keep moving forward.” He also said that he is proud of his family heritage and the fact that he has been able to maintain his family business so that he can pass it on to his own children.
Mr. Zickfield’s children are obviously a big part of his life as a business owner. He claims that they bring a different vibe, atmosphere, and products to the store. Further discussing maintaining such a successful business, Zickfield also mentioned that flexibility is a must, whether that’s with giving more time or changing up products in order to satisfy customers. A major portion of his customers are young people looking for engagement rings, so he’s made it a point to maintain a comfortable atmosphere in his store, and really tries to carry products favored by customers instead of just following the fads. Another lesson I learned from this seasoned business owner is that running a business is hard work and it is not a get-rich-quick career. In order to grow, owners must be willing to invest their earnings back into the business and ride through the ups and downs of their industry.
Mr. Zickfield was also proud to note that he can benefit the community by providing local people with meaningful employment in a fun work atmosphere in which the workers can become part of the family. Overall, Zickfield says that “you must find a field that you are passionate about because then you will enjoy going to work each day.” As I left my interview with Mr. Zickfield, I headed to my class inspired to work even harder toward my post-graduation dreams. I also became more aware of how fortunate we all are to be a part of such a friendly and historic community like Cape Girardeau. Cheers to 80 years, Mr. Zickfield, and I wish you and your family many more!