As the Civil War came to a close in 1865, the town of Alexandria, Louisiana began to rebuild. Two optimistic Scotsmen named Ferguson and McKinney opened a jewelry store and watch repair business at the corner of Front and Murrary streets. With no river levees at the time, the store was perched right on the banks of the Red River in the heart of the downtown area, making it well positioned to benefit from the very active river traffic in this important port city.
Five years later, Carl A. Schnack, left Hamburg, Germany and came to Alexandria to work as a watchmaker for Messrs. Ferguson and McKinney after working briefly in New York. Soon, C.A. Schnack purchased the interests of Mr. McKinney and then Mr. Ferguson, renaming the store C.A. Schnack Jewelry Company. The name remains to this day, and his direct descendants have owned the business throughout the years.
Over time as Alexandria prospered with its river traffic and as the center of the state, Schnack’s did as well. The store grew, changed hands within the family and changed locations several times. Nell Schnack Hunter, daughter of C. A. Schnack, and her husband, Frank O. Hunter, purchased the business in 1916. In 1928, Carl S. Carstens, son of Lizzie Schnack Carstens and grandson of C. A. Schnack, joined the business and became a partner with Mr. and Mrs. Hunter in 1936.
During World War II, several military camps sprang up in Central Louisiana to prepare for the war. In 1940 Schnack’s doubled in size and added china, glassware, and gift departments; becoming one of the largest jewelry and gift stores in the South.
Carl Rand Carstens, son of Carl S. Carstens and great-grandson of C. A. Schnack, returned to Alexandria in 1953 after military service and became the fourth generation of the Schnack family to join the business.
In 1967, Mr. Hunter retired and sold his interest to Carl S. Carstens, Carl Rand Carstens, and Ken P. Carstens, (also son of Carl S. Carstens and great-grandson of C. A. Schnack). A branch opened in 1974 at the Centre on Jackson St., which became the main branch of the store in 1995 when the downtown location closed. In 2005, Schnack’s moved again to its new larger home, under the clock tower on Dorchester Drive. In the 1980’s, William ‘Bill’ Schnack Carstens Sr. and J. Pitts Carstens, great-great-grandsons of C. A. Schnack and sons of Carl Rand Carstens, joined the business, becoming the fifth generation. In 2013, William Schnack Carstens Jr., a great-great-great-grandson of C. A. Schnack, joined the business alongside his father, Bill Carstens and grandfather, Carl Rand Carstens, becoming the sixth generation. Currently, Schnack’s has fourth, fifth, and sixth generation working together in different aspects of the business.
Schnack’s has seen many changes since being established in 1865. Guns, fishing tackle, radios, kitchen appliances, and cameras — inventory staples throughout the years — are no longer in stock and ledgers are no longer handwritten. Today the store is known for its diamonds, fine jewelry, engagement rings, and gift items. Bill Carstens buys diamonds directly from suppliers from all over the world with the Schnack’s standard of quality in mind, providing the best prices to our customers. Adapting with the changes of the world has made it possible to continue to provide Central Louisiana with the best quality service and products like Schnack’s has for years.
One thing that has not changed, however, is our goal to give our customers the best value for their money. The customer who rode their horse up to the store in 1865, is the same value conscious customer who drives their car into our parking lot today. With outstanding quality, personal service and excellent value as hallmarks, the descendants of C. A. Schnack continues the store’s legacy into the 21st century.
“We pride ourselves on providing our community with the newest jewelry trends, top quality products, and superior customer service; making it easier than ever for you to achieve her dreams.” -Bill Carstens