When Jean and Bill Carter started Bastion Jewellers in 1985, many people said they’d have to be more cutthroat if they wanted the business to survive. The odds were against them, with seven or eight other jewellers already in downtown Nanaimo, but 36 years later, they’re the last jeweller standing.
“We’ve been very lucky, and all those naysayers of our youth were wrong. You can do well if you treat people fairly, if you treat customers the way you’d like to be treated,” Bill says. “They also said ‘You’ll never be able to work with your wife,’ and they were wrong too! We were able to make a life of it.”
Now Bill and Jean have decided to retire, and they have a simple message for everyone who’s supported Bastion Jewellers over the years: THANK YOU.
“We’re saying goodbye to a really great bunch of people who’ve trusted us with their needs. Our customers are like friends and family, and we feel very humbled and fortunate to be involved in their lives.”
The Carters have made and sold engagement rings to many lovebirds in Nanaimo, and they’ve been in business long enough to make engagement rings for the children of those lovebirds too. In recent years Bill’s even started seeing his own creations in local estate sales!
“We’ve been invited to so many weddings and important moments in people’s lives,” Bill says. “The jewellery store is a community hub like the barbershop in that way.”
Old world charm
The Carters started the store “on a shoestring” with just a handful of rings, but now have thousands of pieces to sell off before they close their doors. They are slowly shutting down the repair and custom creation side of the business, though Bill admits it’s hard to say no when people ask for his help.
“I’ve been quite reflective lately. You just get good after 40 years of doing something, and then you retire. In the beginning every single piece was a challenge. You had to hold your breath and hope the solder worked! Now the technology has improved — with my laser welder I can pinpoint weld right beside a precious stone.”
It was the pandemic that pushed the Carter’s to close the store — business has continued to be busy thanks to the community’s support, but Bill got a glimpse of a different life when the store temporarily shut down last spring.
“At first I didn’t know what to do — I tore up the yard and did all sorts of odd jobs around the house — but after a month I started to enjoy it,” Bill says. “My grandfather worked until the day he died, and I thought I might do the same. Now I want to sit on the porch and have a coffee with my wife, and not have to rush off to work.”