Alumnus-owned business employs local artists despite economic uncertainty for small businesses


Squirrel City Jewelers is located in Downtown Kent.

Downtown Kent has a wide array of shops, bars and restaurants that are locally owned and operated. Squirrel City Jewelers is owned by Kent State alumnus Michael Faehnel. He received his B.F.A in jewelry, metals, enameling and glass in 2004 and in 2019 opened Squirrel City.

“The former owners, who had it as Standing Rack Jewelers, are really good friends with one of my good friends,” Faehnel said. “When they were ready to retire, they asked if I wanted a store, and I was already running someone else’s shop from the back side, so I agreed.”

The shop features jewelry from local artists Alex DravenAnastasia RasulovaDanny LikarJak FiglerLisa Jay and Michelle Pajak-ReynoldsFaehnel’s pieces are also available to purchase.  

“More often than not, artists find their way to me somehow. I don’t advertise that I’m looking for artists; it’s kind of a small footprint,” Faehnel said. “As far as choosing an artist, as long as their pieces are different than what we have currently and they are established enough to be able to stand behind what they do for me to rely on their presence, most of the time I will give someone a shot. Sometimes I give at least a few months trial period to see how it goes and if it’s a good fit for them as an artist.”

As an alumnus of Kent State, Faehnel has been in the Kent area a long time. He knows the community well and admires the support for small businesses in the community. The pandemic took a toll on many local shops, but support poured in to help out as much as possible.

“This town rocks! I’m appreciative of all the efforts that go in to keeping us from a chain-oriented town,” Faehnel said. “We have so many unique small businesses here, and while some did have to close their doors because of the pandemic, a lot of us were able to remain open thanks to the support of the locals. There is not a single entity here that I can think of that isn’t involved in some kind of community effort to grow and continue to improve what is happening here in Kent.” 

Unique storefronts like Squirrel City Jewelers are one of the main reasons Kent State students and the community love the area so much.

“When I was touring campuses to decide where I would spend my next four years, one of the big factors that led me to choose Kent was the downtown area,” said junior construction management major Anthony Mancini. “It is so different than other college towns. There are so many local businesses that you won’t find anywhere else. I think that’s one big thing that makes the area so special.”

Lindsey Vlasic covers entertainment and the arts. Contact her at [email protected].