In 1974, Tim Schneller came to the Rutland area to ski. Thirty-five years later, he still hasn’t left. “The rest of my family actually moved up here, too,” the Long Island native says of his migrations to Vermont. Schneller, the proprietor of Timco Jewelers & Goldsmiths and Timco Gallery, has been a fixture of the downtown Rutland business community ever since.
Originally located in the old Rutland Mall on Route 4, Schneller notes that even by the early 1980s he could see the writing on the wall for shopping malls.
“It was always downtown versus the mall,” he says of the struggle that exists to this day.
While that mall still had over a decade before its closing, Schneller was growing tired of that retail model. “I wanted to be downtown, in my own building,” he explains underlining the freedom that comes with owning every aspect of your business: “You don’t have as much control in a mall. You have to keep their hours, pay rent – I’m glad I made the move.”
Positioned on the corner of Center and Wales streets, the view from Timco’s large picture windows is quite impressive. One can gaze west down Center taking in views of the Paramount and the Richardson Building – cars and pedestrians gliding through the scene. It’s a low vantage point that frames the block at a unique angle.
“My workbench is right over there,” he said, pointing to the back of the store, “I get to look out this window all day long.”
In a city full of great views, this one is worth checking out.
But how does one get into the jewelry business?
“It was something that always interested me from a young age,” Schneller says, citing a family friend and goldsmith who first showed him some of the tricks of the trade. From there, he went to Germany where he spent time honing his skills.
“I learned how to melt gold and reshape it, how to set stones,” he explains describing his work as an art more than a business. Indeed, there is much more to it than simply selling jewelry. It is a process that takes a great deal of time and care.
“I can make anything in here,” he says gesturing to a nearby display case in his showroom, “I just don’t have the time,” He does, however, set most of the diamonds in his store.
While he may not be able to make everything he stocks, Schneller does spend much of his time on custom and repair work.
“People will come in with an old piece of jewelry, or a couple pieces, and ask me to create something new out of it,” he says, mentioning an instance where one man came in with his deceased grandparent’s piece of jewelry that he wanted to sell for a wedding ring. Schneller suggested that he could melt the piece down, reshape it as the ring and set a diamond in it. “Here’s something that’s already got a lot of sentimental value to it. Why buy something new?”
Schneller’s business may in Rutland, but his work takes him abroad frequently.
“I travel to Germany and Antwerp (Belgium) once a year” to buy diamonds, saying it makes more sense to go to the source. “Here, I might get to look at two or three diamonds at a time. Over there, I can sit in a room, and look at a dozen or so – get the best picks and prices.”
Schneller describes visiting the diamond seller’s facilities in Antwerp as an experience in itself, with armed guards and high-tech security at every turn.
“You have to turn in your passport to get inside,” he says of the lengths taken to ensure the safety of the gems. While it sounds like something out of a James Bond film, Schneller notes that the inside is relatively underwhelming. “Basically, you’re sitting in an office – white walls, gray desks – nothing fancy.”
There may be less adventure in Rutland, but Schneller’s commitment to downtown manages to keep him busy. About two years ago, he opened the Timco Gallery adjacent to his business. Originally conceived by several local artists who were interested in opening a new gallery, Schneller suggested Center Street location offering to rent it himself.
“Computers, credit card machines, phones, I had all the infrastructure for a business already built in right next door,” Schneller said of his willingness to offer up his expertise. “Why not make it easy for them?”
A nonjuried gallery, the space is open to amateur and professional artists alike. Schneller, along with a small group of volunteers, maintain the gallery while trying to keep a low overhead and collecting an even lower commission – typically only 25 percent which in the gallery world is agreeable. And of that commission, Schneller donates all of it to art programs in local schools.
“It’s never too much money, but it’s amazing what even $100 will do for an art class,” he says of the donations.
Indeed, Schneller is very dedicated to art education. He frequently recruits apprentices from area high schools and even students from Europe to work in his store. Recently, he donated some old jeweler’s equipment to a local school so students could learn the trade. “It’s an art, but it’s also something they can make a career out of.”
After almost four decades in Rutland, Schneller has a lot invested in the community from both a personal and professional standpoint. We spend some time talking about the state of the city – the future of The Pit, the fate of the library, residential and business development downtown – all the topics familiar to downtown business people. Schneller is optimistic about Rutland’s future.
“I have always believed in downtown,” he says, gazing outside once again
As evening approaches, and lights flicker on in the windows of businesses along Center Street, it’s not difficult to see why.
Expressed: (Approximately) 5 Questions for Tim Schneller
The Express’ Jim Sabataso caught up with the owner of Rutland’s Timco Jewelers & Goldsmiths at his shop to talk about Downtown, diamonds, and those trains.
Jim Sabataso: First one’s a softball; what’s your favorite gem?
Tim Schneller: Opal. It’s my birthstone. Plus, it was also the first stone I ever cut. When you cut and polish opal, it usually comes out in an odd shape so I had to make the setting, too.
JS: What’s the best part about owning a business Downtown?
TS: You own part of the community. You’re not a tenant in some commercial complex. That means a lot to me.
JS: OK, time for the Lightning Round. The topic is Diamonds.
TS: Fire away.
JS: Why exactly are diamonds so expensive?
TS: They’re rare, for one. But it’s also the cut, the clarity.
JS: Are they really a girl’s best friend?
TS: Depends on who’s asking.
JS: Are they forever?
JS: So you spend a lot of time in Germany and Belgium. Which is better?
TS: Germany. I speak German, and have friends over there.
JS: What’s up with the trains in the window?
TS: I’ve had them forever, even when I was at the old mall. I’ve always liked trains. The kids like them, too. I actually had a guy buy an engagement ring not too long ago who said he was buying it here because he remembered playing with the trains when he was younger.
JS: That’s quite the long-term advertising plan.
TS: But it works!