Sonoma County’s oldest retail store annually donates fine jewelry to raise funds for agricultural education
By Tim Tesconi
E.R. Sawyer Jewelers, a beloved Santa Rosa institution for over 140 years and Sonoma County’s oldest retailer, has built its business by giving back to the community it serves. Fortunately, Sonoma County Farm Bureau is one of the beneficiaries of the store’s generosity and goodwill.
For more than 10 years, Doug and Ame Van Dyke, who own and manage E.R. Sawyer Jewelers on Fourth St. in Santa Rosa, have donated a stunning piece of jewelry for the raffle at Farm Bureau’s Great Sonoma Crab and Wine Fest. Over the years the donations from Sawyer Jewelers have generated thousands of dollars to help Farm Bureau develop the next generation of farmers, ranchers and agricultural leaders.
“Farm Bureau plays such an important role in keeping agriculture part of Sonoma County. We are honored to help in Farm Bureau’s work, especially in its support of 4-H and FFA members through its scholarship programs. These young people are the future of farming and ranching in Sonoma County,” said Doug Van Dyke, president of Sawyer’s, which in addition to its landmark store in Santa Rosa has a second shop in St. Helena, opened in 2016.
The Crab Fest is Farm Bureau’s main fundraising effort for agricultural education and outreach. Money raised at the event including money from the Sawyer Jewelers’ donation provides scholarships for students continuing their agricultural education at universities and trade schools. Proceeds also help fund Ag Days, an annual spring event where thousands of urban school kids learn about farm life.
Dayna Ghirardelli, executive director of Sonoma County Farm Bureau, said E.R. Sawyer Jewelers and the Van Dykes are true friends of Farm Bureau and agriculture, part of an urban-rural partnership she would like to foster with other businesses. She said the Sawyer’s jewelry donation not only adds dazzle to the Crab Fest but brings in real dollars for agricultural education.
“I’ve been impressed by the Van Dykes’ enthusiasm for our organization. While their business is not agricultural, their love and appreciation for Sonoma County agriculture is evident and we are so grateful that they support us in such a passionate and generous way,” said Ghirardelli, who became Farm Bureau’s executive director last year. She has been actively involved in Farm Bureau most of her life.
“I’ve not missed a Farm Bureau Crab Feed in over ten years, and I can’t remember one without the presence of E.R. Sawyer Jewelers. Very early in my position at the Farm Bureau, Doug and Ame were eager to introduce themselves to me with every intention to continue the relationship and their unwavering support of Sonoma County Farm Bureau,” said Ghirardelli.
For his part, Doug said his family has close ties with agriculture and agricultural organizations like Farm Bureau. His maternal grandparents, Allan and Virginia Flood, who bought E. R. Sawyer Jewelers in 1949, also had property and horses off Mark West Springs Road in northern Santa Rosa. Allan later had a small cattle ranch in Covelo. In addition to being Farm Bureau members, jeweler Allan Flood, an accomplished Western horseman, was a member of the Sonoma County Trail Blazers and the Riding and Driving Club. He was a fixture at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.
“Growing up I spent a lot of time around the horse barns and at the Horsemen’s Club at the back end of the Sonoma County Fairgrounds,” said Doug. He also enjoyed the annual summer fair and watching the 4-H and FFA livestock exhibitors parade their animals in the showring. Those experiences provided a deep-seated appreciation for agriculture and its role in defining Sonoma County.
Doug and Ame work side-by-side every day to run their business but have separate roles. Ame handles the day-to-day operations including team scheduling, marketing and customer experiences in the two stores. Meanwhile, Doug is the big picture guy, managing financials and doing the strategic planning for the business.
Both are on board when it comes to community giving and involvement. Doug and Ame, along with their team, attend the charitable events they support with their donations from the E.R. Sawyer jewelry collection.
“It’s very important for us to be at the events that we are supporting with a donation,” Doug said. “We join in celebrating with members of the community who come together to raise money for a good cause.”
Doug and Ame said E.R. Sawyer Jewelers donates to approximately 75 non-profits each year. The value of those jewelry donations totals more than $200,000 annually.
“We feel honored to support local community organizations such as the Farm Bureau,” Ame said. “We love being part of the team in making Sonoma County a better place.”
Doug and Ame Van Dyke, who have four children, were both raised in Sonoma County and have many community ties and connections, which makes their community support both genuine and heartfelt. Doug graduated from Cardinal Newman High School and Ame is a graduate of Ursuline High School.
E.R. Sawyer Jewelers, known as the “I Love You Store,” has built its reputation by offering impeccable customer service and offering a range of services including jewelry repair, custom creations and jewelry design for both antique and modern pieces. There are three goldsmiths on staff so all work is done in house and does not have to leave the shop.
Doug, who has worked in the family business for nearly 40 years, loves that generations of families have been customers for years, purchasing engagement rings then a special piece of jewelry for a milestone anniversary. He has seen it all come full circle. He said customers he sold jewelry to when he was in his mid-20’s are now asking him to appraise their jewelry collection as part of their estate planning.
The store is a part of Santa Rosa’s history and a continuing thread in the life of many residents. E.R. Sawyer Jewelers traces its roots to Frank Sawyer who opened his Santa Rosa watch and clock shop in 1879, serving the needs of the residents of the nineteenth century farm town. Upon his death in 1889, Frank’s son Elbert R. Sawyer took over the family business and under his leadership the store flourished for more than 50 years. In 1949, the store was sold to Doug Van Dyke’s grandparents Allan and Virginia Flood in partnership with Allan’s uncle, Orrin Magoon.
The Floods and Magoon worked tirelessly to run the business until Orrin’s retirement in 1962. At that time, the Floods were joined by their son-in-law, Robert Van Dyke, who began working in the store to learn the jewelry business.
In 1978, the Floods retired and turned the family business over to Robert and their daughter Kathleen Van Dyke. Almost a decade later, Doug Van Dyke joined his parents at E.R. Sawyer Jewelers. After working and learning the family business over the next fifteen years, Doug assumed the role of president in 2002 when Robert retired, becoming the fourth generation to own E. R. Sawyer Jewelers.
It’s a proud legacy that is reflected in the way that the Van Dykes and E.R. Sawyer Jewelers run their business while building community along the way.