PITTSBURG — Desiderio Pompey Benelli was only ten years old when he began working in the coal mine in 1890. He was sixteen when he broke his leg and his mining days came to an end.
He later married Mary Zeigler and D. P. started his jewelry and optometrist business in Frontenac in 1903, moving it to Pittsburg in 1914 locating it at 217 N. Broadway, now Forms One. D. P. moved his business to 311 N. Broadway in 1927 where his sons, Andy, Charlie, Martin (Bud) and David grew up around the business and helped operate it. Joseph was the only son who didn’t work in the family business because he moved to California.
David became an optometrist, working upstairs at 311 N. Broadway. You can still see his optometrist sign on the window above Sweet Designs Cakery. D. P. and his sons operated in this location until 1949. In fact, Bud Sr. met his future wife while working on repairs in the window. Bud Jr. said she caught his eye as she was walking by and the as saying goes, the rest is history!
Bud Sr. and his wife, Margaret had two children, Bud and Mary. Bud Benelli Jr. began working in the family business at the age of nine where he was required to begin his training every day after school. Bud Jr. wanted to run track in high school at St. Mary’s Colgan, however his father told him your only track is how fast you can get from the school to the store.
In 1949, Bud’s Jewelry moved to 720 N. Broadway where it served downtown Pittsburg for 62 years until the building was destroyed by a fire on May 21, 2011. Did you know that well into the sixties, Pittsburg supported eight jewelry stores? Bud and his family would have to hire extra help for the holidays to accommodate all the customers. Bud Sr. helped out in the store as he was able until his passing in 1999.
For 69 years, the third generation Benelli continues the family business now located at 701 N. Broadway in the historic Stilwell Hotel. A highly skilled jeweler, Bud Jr. specializes in the repair of clocks and jewelry; he also does engravings, is a salesman, and has the day to day task of running his own business.
If you can’t find him at the shop, you might catch him next door at Otto’s!
The 1929 Ford Model A wood paneled mail delivery truck was originally owned by the Pittsburg Post Office. Sam Smith purchased the truck and parked it in front of the family business, Smith Cycle. It caught Jimmy Benellis attention, who then bought it from Sam. After the Ford set in storage on the Benelli family farm, Bud Sr. purchased it from his cousin Jimmy. The post office said Bud Benelli Sr. could drive the truck with the stipulation that he remove the U.S. Mail sign since it was no longer a government vehicle. As a joke, Mr. Benelli repainted the sign to read U.S. Male and used it to advertise for his jewelry store on Broadway. He would proudly drive it in parades, even taking a trip to Wichita in it. Bud Jr. remembers taking that trip with his sister, Mary and parents and what a slow process it was to get there since it only went 40 mph! He also recalls the time his father shed a tear after putting the Model A on loan at the museum even though he knew it would be in a preserved location for view.
The 1949 English panel delivery van was manufactured by Ford Thames at the Ford Dagenham plant in England. It was used to make deliveries for Benellis Jewelry Store. After the passing of Bud Sr, his daughter, Mary Benelli Polfer received the vehicles. The Model A truck stayed at the museum, while the van went to Tulsa with Marys family. James Polfer would start up the van every now and then to keep it running. Their son, Jamie would drive around Tulsa in the van during the early 90s. When the Polfers moved back to Pittsburg, Mary added the delivery van to the collection. The Model A truck and delivery van are graciously on loan to the museum by Mary Benelli Polfer of Pittsburg.
Remember, History is Fun and please support your local businesses!
— Amanda Minton is the director of the Crawford County Historical Museum, as well as a lecturer of history at Pittsburg State University.