This is how it started...
In 1906 a young man named Frederic William Francis started as an apprenticing jeweller with W.B. Shakespeare, son of a postmaster, in the Roger’s Chocolate building. Three years later, Mr. Shakespeare’s business was purchased by W.H. Wilkerson and FW Francis stayed on with his company until 1921. It was Mr. Wilkerson who first erected a large street clock across his shop on Government Street sometime around 1910.
In 1921, thirty one year old FW Francis, opened his first store at 1627 Douglas Street renting half the premises from Miss Frith’s women shop.
Needing a larger premisses quickly, Frederic moved the store a year later to a larger location at the corner of Douglas and Fisgard. The HBC building was to be opened soon.
Frederic’s son, Hugh, joined the company in 1928 and the firm was known as FW Francis and Co. Business oriented Frederic bought out W.H. Wilkerson in 1934 and moved his store to 1210 Douglas Street. In 1946 FW Francis and Co. purchased Wengers on Yates street and operated two jewellery stores until 1957 when they decided to amalgamate them into one very large premisses at 1684 Douglas Street. Metropolitan purchased the building that housed their Yates street store.
The family business flourished employing thirty people: jewellers, watchmakers, engravers, and numerous sales staff.
They sold jewellery, lead crystal, silver halloware, figurines, Swiss watches, clocks ect. At that time FW Francis had a private collection of wrist watches bearing his name.
In 1968 Ian, Hugh’s son, joined the company after 6 years in the accounting field. A year later, Frederic retired from the business handing it to his son. Unfortunately Hugh Francis did not enjoy the fame of the company due to his ill health. He passed away in 1972. Ian, his son, became the president of the company. His grandfather the founder of the company lived to be 96. He died on February 7, 1986 at the Royal Jubilee Hospital.
Ian Francis had a very good sense of the ever changing retail scenery in Victoria and made a bold move the same year his grandpa passed away by moving out from Douglas Street to the present location at 617 Broughton Street. Ian persuaded the City of Victoria to relocate the clock to the narrower sidewalk on Broughton Street which was not an easy task. The company was smaller by then and started to focus on custom work, jewellery repair, watch and clock repairs and corporate jewellery.
Ian decided to sell the third generation company in 1995 as his only daughter continued with the medical profession. Saving the legacy and name recognition was very much on his mind when he carefully selected the right purchasers.
Paul Groppe and Rafal Zebrowski, two goldsmiths arrived from Toronto in December of 1995 to take over the business. Paul, fifty at the time, a master goldsmith originally from Germany and Rafal, 26, a goldsmith and gemmologist born in Poland.
Both talented at their profession, brought a new vision in jewellery design and fabrication. Renowned at their bench skills, they pioneered the tension design in Canada. Rafal’s double sleeve tension ring became the signature of the store.
The pair were proud of having the beautiful clock in front of the store on Broughton street also knowing that the lamp standards in our city have been designed based on Francis’s clock. The movement had been made by Joseph Mayer Co. in Seattle and the iron standard was cast by Hutchison Brothers in Victoria. The clock remains an eye-catching monument graced by the original plaque of the manufacturing jeweller.
Francis Jewellers Today
In December of 2010 at the age of 65, Paul retired and Rafal became the sole owner of FW Francis Jewellers. 2015 marks the 94th anniversary of the oldest local jewellery store in Victoria.
Rafal’s focus remains on custom design and hand made jewellery without the use of wax and casting.
The team of only professionals: certified master-goldsmiths, a watchmakers, gemmologists and sales staff are guaranteeing the finest product and excellent customer service.