Albemarle, North Carolina “It’s called the ‘end of an era.’
Starnes Jewelers is closing after 124 years in business in downtown Albemarle, Stanly County.
“[It’s] the hardest thing i’ve ever done in my life, just because i love employees. I love the customers,” owner Gene Starnes said.
Starnes spent his life working in the jewelry store his grandfather opened in 1898.
“We’ve been through a lot,” Starnes said. “I went through the 1917 pandemic, I survived that [and] survived the depression,
Now Starnes has said it’s time to close the store he’s owned since his father died in the 1970s.
“In terms of health and age, I’m 80 and had a battle with cancer,” Starnes said.
Customers filled the store on Tuesday to say goodbye and enjoy an end-of-business sale.
“I have to see it up close. It’s a good place,” Albemarle resident Wanda Talbert said.
Like so many others, Talbert said she believed the West Main Street store would still be there.
“It’s part of what we were raised around,” Talbert said.
Starnes has no children and no one to pass the store on to.
“My brother-in-law is helping me and he was involved in it. But he’s older than me,” Starnes said.
Starnes said he also doesn’t want to sell the store to a big chain.
“I can’t stand doing what I want to do anymore,” Starnes said.
Customers new and old said they would miss the personalized service, and the store’s closure is a loss to the community.
“I’ve been here many times and every time I come here I come out with something new,” said Martin Garcia.
“[I] I love the community, and it’s extremely difficult. I’ve never experienced anything harder than having to shut down,” Starnes said.
Starnes adds that he plans to stay open until he sells most of his inventory, which could take up to six weeks. He said he recently sold an engagement ring for the fifth generation of the same family.