‘End of an era’ as 124-year-old jewelry store prepares to close in Albemarle
ALBEMALRE, NC — It’s been called the “end of an era,” as Starnes Jewelers prepares to close its doors after 124 years in business in downtown Albemarle.
“The hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, just because I love the employees, I love the customers,” says owner Gene Starnes.
Starnes spent his life working in the jewelry store his grandfather opened in 1898.
“We have been through a lot. I went through the 1917 pandemic, I went through that, I went through the depression,” he says.
Now he says it’s time to close the store he’s owned since his father died in the late 1970s.
“Health-wise and age-wise, I’m 80 and I’ve had battles with cancer,” Starnes says.
Customers filled the store on Tuesday to say goodbye and take advantage of an end-of-business sale.
“I hate seeing him up close. It’s a good place,” says customer Wanda Talbert.
Like so many others, she thought the West Main Street store would still be there.
“Because it’s part of what we were raised around,” she says.
But Starnes has no children, no one to pass the store to.
“My brother-in-law helps me and he was involved. But he’s older than me,” Starnes says.
And he doesn’t want to sell to a big chain.
Starnes plans to stay open until it sells most of its inventory, maybe another five or six weeks.
He says he recently sold an engagement ring for the fifth generation of the same family.