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Central Kansas nice fit for new jeweler
biz deh family jewels pic web
Larry McDilda, owner of Family Jewels in Great Bend, examines a case of jewelry in his store at 1917 Lakin Thursday afternoon. He said he loves the area and loves doing business here. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

Family Jewels, 1917 Lakin in Great Bend, is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Call 620-796-2252 for more information.

For Larry McDilda, owner of Family Jewels in Great Bend, finding his home in central Kansas was the result of a long search.

"I came to Kansas and fell in love," the jewelry store operator said. He meant that in more ways than one.

First, he met his wife-to-be Michelle in Ellinwood, where the native New Yorker now lives. "I met a beautiful woman and married her."

Second, he found peace and quiet, and found the rural American values of community and family fit his way of thinking. "Everybody knows everybody else. That’s great."

Originally from New York, he had been living in California. "I hated it. It was too liberal."

Since he was single again and his kids were grown, he set out to find a place to call home. For over a year, he lived out of his car and motel rooms as he visited 48 states and most of the Canadian provinces. "It was a rough one and half years," he said.

Then he found Kansas, Ellinwood in particular. That was two years ago.

For years while on the West Coast, he worked as a bench jeweler for Frith and Bradshaw, a business that catered to the area’s elite. So, when he and his stepson Ryan Connely decided to open a jewelry store in Great Bend, his former employers were eager to help him get started by sending him materials, equipment and other supplies.

Now, continuing what he has done in the past, he works through precious and semi-precious gem suppliers in the Far East and sells them to jewelers in Wichita. Many of these stones are available at Family Jewels.

But, their specialty is silver, he said. They work in gold if requested, but with it being so expensive, they don’t deal with it much.

In addition, they set stones, and repair silver and gold jewelry.

The store is located at 1917 Lakin and he rents from MyTown which owns the building. Although not a part of the MyTown group of shops, MyTown representatives have helped him get his business going. "They’re great," he said.

He opened Sept. 24 and said business is starting to pick up. "People are finding us."