ST. CLOUD - Founder Jim Kruse and President Melissa Kelley of J.F. Kruse Jewelers in St. Cloud, have been named the Minnesota Small Business Persons of the year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

In 1979, Kruse was hired at D.J. Bitzan Jewelers in St. Cloud as a bench jeweler and diamond setter. Jim changed careers after unforeseen family struggles and turned to construction. He returned to jewelry and in 2000 opened J.F. Kruse Jewelers.

The store started with two full-time and two part-time employees. J.F. Kruse Jewelers now have 17 employees.

In 2013, the business added a new store on Waite Avenue in St. Cloud. Jim was joined by his daughter Melissa, who took ownership of the business when he retired in January of this year.

The business continues to increase their customer base. Sales have increased by 7 percent every year since they've opened. They also often donate jewelry and gift certificates to raffles to raise money for sick people and families hit by disaster.

J.F. Kruse Jewelers will be honored at the Minnesota Small Business Week Awards program on May 7th at the Minneapolis Marriott Northwest.

Joshua Akkerman, WJON