Crescent Jewelers Opens in Historic Downtown La Crosse, WI
Crescent Jewelers opened in La Crosse, Wisconsin in 1914 as The Crescent Company Jewelers at 429 Main Street in Historic Downtown La Crosse.
Izador Horwitz and his brother, jewelers from Chicago purchased jewelry stores in Fargo, North Dakota, Sioux City, Iowa, and La Crosse. Each store had a unique street clock and a reputation for selling high quality engagement rings and watches. During World War II, Horwitz operated the Midwestern stores under different names from stores in Arizona and Chicago to avoid some of the difficulties imposed by war rations.
During such times, the stores pioneered and expanded the offering for credit accounts for customers. Easy credit – “Just $5 down and $1 each week” – gave customers the opportunity to open a credit account to help each couple get a great start by bringing in “an honest face.” Further, Crescent Jewelers of La Crosse has always been known for quality and service. Prior to the advent of the quartz watch movement, Crescent Jewelers had four professional watchmakers and two goldsmiths.
At the end of the War, Horwitz opened up the California Crescent Jewelers in the Westwood area of Califorina near UCLA. Crescent Jewelers of Westwood was a partnership between the Horwitz family and a woman who had worked for Horwitz during the war.
E.R. "Mac" McIlvaine becomes the new manager of the La Crosse store
In 1957, E.R. “Mac” McIlvaine moved from St. Louis, Missouri to manage the La Crosse store. Mac purchased Crescent Jewelers from Horwitz several years later. Mac was schooled as a watchmaker and was a career jeweler with many years as a diamond buyer and with prior experience managing jewelry stores in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Louisiana, and Houston. He visited La Crosse only once and decided God’s Country was certainly a place he could call home and make a name for himself.
While managing the store, Izador Horwitz asked Mac if he had any ideas for a new advertising campaign, whether Mac could whistle or sing. Mac indicated he could do neither, but Horwitz asked Mac to try out his tenor.
Due in no small portion to his community involvement, “Mac The Singing Jeweler” became a well received local figure as his unique singing caught on. Mac sung with Liberace and was recognized by Bob Hope and Bill Cosby when the comedians came to the Mary E. Sawyer Auditorium. Mac’s ads were shown nationally on specials that spotlighted humorous ads, and he received numerous awards from the La Crosse Advertising Club. Mac appeared on television wearing a bee costume singing about the “Birds and the Bees and the Flowers and the Trees,” an angel singing “Hark the Herald,” and a hobo belting out “I’ve been Working on the Railroad…” as well as many other memorable songs and costumes. In addition to the memorable ads, Mac’s reputation as a jeweler offering the highest quality and the largest selection of engagement, anniversary and wedding rings, and the most caring attention and service after the sale made him La Crosse’s best-known jeweler. Each of his ads featured ArtCarved diamonds and wedding bands or Bulova Watches. McIlvaine served as La Crosse’s first parade marshal for the Holiday Parade.
July 28, 1994
Mac passed away just shy of his 84th birthday on July 28, 1994. He spent the day before working at the store, golfing, and with his beloved wife Vivian. As a tribute, Downtown merchants posted signs in their windows bidding “Good bye Mac” to their friend.
Individual Jewelry Stores
Each of the Crescent Jewelers stores were purchased by their managers after 1957. The Sioux City, Iowa store closed, followed by Fargo in 1984. The California branch remained in operation as a Crescent Jewelers until 1997 when it changed its name to Sarah Leonard Jewelers and is still in business today.
Mac’s daughter Lynne and her son Dean purchased the jewelry store and continued the tradition of selling only the highest quality merchandise and providing the greatest service to all customers. Harry, Mac’s son, has over 30 years in the jewelry business and learned a lot from his dad. Mac, along with Lynne, make up the store’s gemology staff.
Continuing the Singing Tradition
In 2000 at the suggestion of Mac’s wife, Dean joined Mac’s singing tradition, after being edited into his ads as Natalie Cole did with Nat King Cole, harmonizing and dressing in the same costumes. Neither Mac nor Dean have ever been appreciated singers. Family members have stated they “can think of no one who would rather have his ads on television today than Grandpa Mac.” The McIlvaine family hopes to continue to honor some of Mac’s most beloved ads.
Restoration and Renovation
The Crescent Jewelers location in La Crosse has gone through an extensive restoration from 1997 to 2003. The family restored the mahogany counters and selected many of the original colors to match the historic image of Downtown La Crosse. In 2003, the storefront was also restored to its 1920s art-deco styling. Christmas presented the downtown fixture with a restored awning in black with three-dimensional guilt letters on gold rails.
The jewelry industry has gone through a revolution since Crescent Jewelers began selling watches and diamond rings, but the tradition of high quality service and merchandise has never changed. Crescent Jewelers has an in-store watchmaker and goldsmith and the largest selection of diamond engagement rings in Western Wisconsin. In 2000, Crescent Jewelers added to its selection of Bulova and Seiko Watches, the fine Swiss timepiece Movado. In addition to the selection of ArtCarved Bridal Jewelry, Crescent Jewelers was selected as the La Crosse area’s only representative of the Hearts On Fire diamond line. As Hearts On Fire is the Worlds Most Perfectly Cut Diamond, Crescent Jewelers was honored with the addition of this seminal jewelry line, as the industry has recognized the store’s unwavering commitment to quality.
Although things change, the fact remains that Crescent Jewelers has helped more families get their start than any other jewelry store in La Crosse, and will continue to do so for years to come.