In 1949 - the same year that Sugar Days was started in Sugar House - Neisen R. Bank, a Seattle jeweler, visited his sister in Utah. He found a jewelry store for sale in Sugar House and bought it. Neisen R. Bank Jeweler Inc. has been a part of the Sugar House business community ever since.
Today, the store, located at 2148 Highland Dr., is owned by his son, Barry Bank, the only person in the history of the Sugar House Chamber of Commerce to be president of the chamber two consecutive years. He served back-to-back terms in 1985 and 1986."My father started this jewelry store as a Ma and Pa operation and it is still that way," said Bank, who has been involved in the jewelry business for 21 years. "I've really never known anything else," he said.
He worked in his father's store while attending Westminster College, where he majored in business. "I liked the idea of attending a small college, and I could walk to work after school. He later attended jewelry school at Paris Jr. College in Paris, Tex., for a year. After that there was a 18-month correspondence course from the Gemological Institute of America in Los Angeles.
"The principal reason we're still in business after 40 years," Bank remarked, "is service. I am a jeweler and not just a salesman, and customers like the fact that I'm able to give one-on-one service to them."
He said that about 35 percent of his business is what he would call "loyalty business" - people who keep coming back to him for their jewelry needs, including many second and third generation customers. "We have among our customers grown children whose parents bought their engagement and wedding rings from my father," he said.
Bank's father died nine years ago. "And he is still missed," said a customer in the store, who commented after hearing Bank's remarks about his father.
Bank said that among his customers are many husbands and wives, who buy jewelry for each other. He told of one such incidence. The jewelry store, located in the Hyland Plaza, has a door on the north and another on the south. Now, only the south door is open for business, but at one time customers could enter the store from either door.
A lady entered the store from one door, related Bank, and bought a gift for her husband. She had no sooner left, than her husband came in from the other door, to buy a gift for his wife. If they had both used the same door, the husband, as he entered, would have met his wife leaving, and perhaps they would have not been able to keep their gift purchases unknown to each other.
"It has been an interesting life for me," said Bank. "I enjoy people and I enjoy helping them with their jewelry needs." Sometimes, however, the idea of service brings on the unexpected, such as the time when a woman brought to Bank a vacuum cleaner bag filled with dirt. She had lost a gold ring in the vacuum and wanted Bank to help her sift through the dirt to find the ring. He obliged and the ring was found.
Another time a woman came into the store to have Bank cut a ring off her finger. She had been stung by a bee and her finger had swollen over the the ring, making it very difficult to cut off.
Bank and his wife, Barbara, opened a new gift shop in the plaza on April 1, next to the jewelry store. It is called the "Gift Bank," and includes moderately priced gifts. Bank operates the jewelry store, and Barbara the gift shop.
"We believe in Sugar House," said Bank. "It is a great place."
Mrs. Bank said her husband is "the most honest person I know on earth, and that's the philosophy of his business dealings. Barry is here to make a living, and not here to make a financial killing," said Mrs. Bank.
She said her husband is very particular about what he has in the jewelry store, which she said "is a fine jewelry store and not a costume jewelry store. He picks out every item himself."
Apparently Bank's customers appreciates what he does for them and the type of jewelry and gifts he has for sale. "It's amazing how many phone calls we get on Christmas morning," he related, "from people who thank us for the gifts they've received from our store for Christmas."
Bank said that a lot of friends come into the store just to talk. Subjects of conversation, he said, run the gamut, but there is always talk about politics, the government and bowling. Bank is vice president of the Salt Lake City Bowling Association. During the past bowling season, he carried a 189 average, which he said was "down a little." His high game was 286.
Active in civic affairs, Bank has also served on the board of directors of the Salt Lake Rotary Club, on the board of the college of business at Westminster, and on the Private Industrial Council of Salt Lake County.
He also enjoys bicycling with his daughters, ages 17, 14, and 12. "We have cycled all over the city," he said.
Mrs. Bank said her husband is not only a "terrific father, but is also a good cook." He likes to cook breakfasts, and his specialty are blintzes, a thin pancake rolled with a filling. He also cooks Sunday dinner for the family. "He's not adversed to experimenting in his cooking," said his wife, "and we have to eat it."
Bank learned to cook while in the Air Force Reserve, in which he served from 1967 to 1974, obtaining the rank of sergeant. He served at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas and at Hill Air Force Base near Ogden.
"I started out in the military as an air policeman," related the second-generation jeweler, "and ended up as a cook." But cooking is only his hobby, being a fine jeweler for his customers is his No. 1 concern.