George Newton, founder of Newton’s Jewelers in McAlester, Oklahoma, believed that if a business had someone good behind it, there would be fewer problems along the way.
So when he opened his second Newton’s Jewelers store in Joplin, Missouri, in 1939, he took the First National Bank president’s recommendation and visited CPA Claire Dobson at Baird, Kurtz & Dobson. More than 75 years later, Newton’s Jewelers still sells high-quality jewelry from its store on the corner of 5th and Main streets, and the firm Dobson co-founded—now national CPA and advisory firm BKD—still serves the business’ accounting needs.
George founded the original Newton’s Jewelers in McAlester in 1914. He later told his four sons he was going to have a jewelry store for each of them when they grew up. At one time, the family owned 16 stores throughout the South and Midwest, but only two remain today—Joplin and Fort Smith, Arkansas.
Leonard “Bunny” Newton, the third of George’s sons, now owns the Joplin store. At 93, he’s had an eventful life. He served in World War II with his brothers, raced cars and flew—and unfortunately wrecked—airplanes. When he returned from the war in 1945, he settled in Joplin, and that’s where he’s been ever since.
In the late 1930s, Bunny went with his father to Baird, Kurtz & Dobson, which was just around the corner from Newton’s Jewelers in downtown Joplin. He remembers Claire as being an intelligent man who was knowledgeable about the business, and his dad liked the straight-shooting accountant from the start.
“They’ve always been good to us and answered what we needed answered,” he says. “They’ve taken care of us all this time, and that’s why we’ve stayed with them.”
In fact, he says they’ve never seriously considered working with another firm.
Through the decades, Bunny says Newton’s Jewelers has only encountered a significant issue once—when the IRS audited the store.
“I guess it was just our time to be checked,” Bunny laughs. “Of course, we immediately turned to BKD, and they took care of it with us.”
He believes one of the main reasons Newton’s Jewelers has never had any big problems is the guidance they receive from BKD. It also helps that any time he encounters an issue, he can call Partner Troy Hill in the Joplin office and get a timely, thoughtful response.
Brian Newton, Bunny’s son, has worked in the store his entire life and will assume ownership when Bunny steps down. He says his family’s dedication to quality, service and the business’ longevity have allowed Newton’s Jewelers to remain successful through the decades, but he also credits BKD.
Poor bookkeeping causes many businesses to fail, and he believes BKD’s accounting outsourcing services have helped the store keep its finances in order. BKD also provides internal financial statement and tax services to the store.
The Newton family’s trust in BKD goes well beyond the business. Bunny, Brian and Bunny’s grandson, Sam, all call upon the firm for their personal tax work. At one time, Brian even turned to the firm for accounting help with an outside business venture.
“Once you earn trust and you see performance, you stick with it,” he says. “If it’s not broken, you don’t fix it.”
Troy has worked with Newton’s Jewelers for a number of years, and he says BKD and its time-tested client have similar values.
“One of the big things Newton’s Jewelers, Bunny and the family have always been known for is quality and service,” he explains. “Why has this been a good fit? Well, it’s because those are two of the same values we have at BKD.”
In fact, much like BKD’s commitment to unmatched client service has earned the Newton family’s loyalty, the Newton family’s dedication to quality and service has earned the business of Troy and his wife.
Bunny believes Newton’s will be around to serve Troy and other loyal customers for many years to come.
“We’ve been very fortunate all of our lives,” he says. “We’ve run a good, straight, honest business—the same as Baird, Kurtz & Dobson. (Newton’s Jewelers) has gone 100 years now, and I’d like to see it go 200 years.”