When Edmund T. Ahee started his new business, he needed a cash register. He bought one at an auction in 1949, and as his business grew more successful, he deemed it his lucky charm.
This 2-foot-wide, 3-foot-tall tan machine is topped with old typewriter buttons labeled
with different dollar amounts. When the lever is pulled, one of the four long drawers beneath jumps open and the distinctive ring echoes throughout the store. It only rings up to $999, and the last date printed on its receipts is 1955.
Since Edmund first bought it all those years ago, the cash register has remained not only a lucky charm but a symbol of a family legacy.
“I remember it always being around from when I first started working,” says Pamela Ahee Thomas, vice president of Ahee Jewelers. “My dad was actually very superstitious, and he believed that it was very lucky.”
Edmund was 13 years old when his father died. After taking on the role of provider, Edmund quit school and started working. At 26, he was thrust into the jewelry business and started what would become his family’s legacy out of the trunk of his car.
That was between 1945 and 1946, when Edmund was a fleet superintendent for a trucking company and the owner’s secretary asked him if he knew where she could sell some pearls. He got a quote for her, then another, and ended up exchanging them for some watches.
“He took the watches and sold them to all the employees out of the trunk of his car, and then gave her the money,” Peter Ahee, current president of the company and Edmund’s son, says. “Then people kept asking for more and more.”
After a while, Edmund’s uncle told him he could set up shop in the lobby of his bowling alley. There, Edmund sold not only jewelry but appliances, vacuums, radios, luggage, power tools, cameras, portable TVs, sewing machines, and much more.
This November, Ahee Jewelers will have been in operation for 75 years. From humble beginnings in that bowling alley to designing jewelry for the pope in 1987, Ahee Jewelers has struggled and flourished — but not without passion, commitment, and a touch of good luck. They did, after all, have their good luck charm with them.
“At first it was difficult in the area, just because no one really knew us and didn’t have any idea what our family was about,” Peter Ahee says. “Then over the years, he [Edmund] got very involved with charities in this area and met more people and then eventually grew the business.”
After moving out of his uncle’s bowling alley, Edmund T. Ahee opened his own store near Harper and Van Dyke avenues and sold mostly jewelry along with silver and crystal giftware. In 1968, the business moved to its current location on Mack Avenue, where it has thrived for 54 years.
Despite its age and limitations, the Ahee family still uses the cash register daily, and it sits proudly in the staff office as a reminder of the past and hope for the future, says Zachary Ahee, the youngest employee of the third generation of the family.
“My grandfather always reminded us that there are good and bad days,” he says. “You cannot forget about the bad days even after having a string of good days because they will still come along.”
The lucky cash register has a unique ring and the power to shift anyone’s mood.
“Whenever we had a good day, you would know,” Zachary Ahee says, “because we would hear the cash register ka-ching, ka-ching!”
This story is from the October 2022 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more in our digital edition.