Rock bottomed: Glassner Jewelers to stop sparkling
This summer, when a wedding ring lost for 25 years turned up in a drain in the street outside Ben & Jerry's, Glassner Jewelers, where it had been purchased, cleaned up the wedding band and put it in another jewelry box for a joyful Selden Tilden, who'd been devastated to lose it as a newlywed. The news about Glassner Jewelers eight months later doesn't have a happy ending.
The 39-year-old store at Barracks Road will close its doors in mid-January, putting eight employees out of work.
"The jewelry business is having problems right now," says Sheri Beveridge, who, with her parents, owns the three remaining Glassner stores in Charlottesville, Roanoke, and Staunton. "Once people are hurting financially, they give up luxuries like jewelry."
She cites an industry publication that predicts that 20 percent of jewelry stores will go out of business during the current economic downturn. "It's a sad time in the jewelry business right now," she says.
At one time, there were seven Glassner Jewelers shops, with three in Charlottesville, which had Downtown Mall and Fashion Square Mall locations as well.
Glassner is descended from Roanoke-based Fink's Jewelers, started by Nathan Fink in 1930. Brothers-in-law Alvin Fink and Mike Glassner were running the business in 1969 when Glassner went his own way, and renamed the stores he kept.
In the early 1980s, Glassner sold the business to employee Jerry McBride, Beveridge's father.
While the Glassner chain has contracted over the years, Fink's now boasts 14 stores in Virginia and North Carolina, and opened one in Charlottesville in fall 2007 at Barracks Road.
Glassner is not the only soon-to-be empty storefront. WCAV reports that Innisfree World Artisans, the nonprofit store that sells hand-made crafts to benefit the Crozet-based non-profit, will close its Downtown Mall shop in January, joining recently closed Sage Moon Gallery and soon-to-close Migration.
In 2005, Glassner made national news after a man snatched three engagement rings off the counter and ran. It seems that a few days later, on Valentine's Day, a woman came into the store with two of the three rings, asking to have them sized. Instead, her fiance was charged with grand larceny.
Beveridge prefers the first story, of Selden Tilden's lost wedding ring found 25 years later.
"It really exemplifies who we are and our place in the community," she says. "How customer-service oriented we are, what wonderful employees we have, and our customers are the best."
There's another essential connection with customers that Beveridge observes: "When our customers hurt, it's devastating for us."