ALBEMALRE, N.C. – It’s being called the “end of an era,” as Starnes Jewelers prepares to close its doors after 124 years of business in downtown Albemarle.
“Hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, just because I love the employees, I love the customers,” says owner Gene Starnes.
Starnes has spent his life working in the jewelry store his grandfather opened in 1898.
“We’ve been through a lot. Been through the pandemic of 1917, made it through this, made it through the depression,” he says.
Now he says its time to close the store that he’s owned since his father died in the late 1970’s.
“Healthwise, and age, I’m 80 years old, and I’ve had some battle with some cancer,” Starnes explains.
Customers packed the store Tuesday, to say goodbye, and take advantage of a going out of business sale.
“I hate to see it close. It’s a good place,” says customer Wanda Talbert.
Like so many, she thought the store along West Main Street would always be there.
“Because it is a part of what we were raised around,” she says.
But Starnes has no children, no one to pass the store on to.
“My brother-in-law is helping me and he’s been involved in it. But he’s older than I am,” Starnes says.
And he doesn’t want to sell to a big chain.
Starnes plans to stay open until he sells most of his inventory, maybe another five or six weeks.
He says he recently sold an engagement ring for the fifth generation in the same family.