Jewelers Hit By Hurricane Ike

Southeastern jewelers were hit hard by Hurricane Ike, which caused wind and water damage and power outages throughout Texas, the Gulf Coast, and the Midwest on Sept. 13 and 14. There were no reported deaths or serious injuries among jewelers or their families.

The Texas Jewelers Association said up to 100 member stores in the Galveston area were affected. “Those stores and others who got slammed will be rebuilding and dealing with this for years,” said Joe McCullough, TJA’s executive director. Members elsewhere contacted TJA headquarters offering to sell equipment or rent space to those who lost stores and equipment.

Jewelers Mutual adjusters visited scores of policyholders in Texas and had some 50 claims by Sept. 26, said Jeffrey A. Mills, vice president for commercial lines operations. “It’s bad, truly bad there,” Mills said after returning from the Houston/Galveston region. “Galveston is devastated. There were a lot of power outages and sign damage in the Houston area, but not as much structural damage. Many jewelry stores are in malls or plazas that were damaged and closed to business. Closer to the coast, we saw much more structural damage to buildings.” Some stores in the Galveston area could be out of business for weeks or months, he said.

About 100 TJA member stores in southeast Texas were on the hurricane’s eastern side, or “red zone,” the most devastating side, said McCullough. “Many jewelers’ stores on the west side kept their electricity, but their homes elsewhere were racked by high winds, debris, and no electricity,” he noted

Jewelers of America reactivated its Recovery Network, formed following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The Recovery Network connects jewelers in need with people offering support, advice, or supplies after a catastrophic event, said JA public affairs coordinator Lauren Thompson.

The storm directly affected two members of the Retail Jewelers Organization, one in Houston and another just north of it. Though both lost electricity and were closed for a week and a half, the stores survived, said RJO chief executive officer Mary Peterson.

The Independent Jewelers Organization said at least one member store, in Wedgwood Village, Texas, suffered damage and was still under repair two weeks afterward. No other members reported damage. Others in Illinois, Kentucky, and Ohio lost power, in some cases for many days after the storm, said Penny Palmer, director of member services.

National retailers like Sterling Jewelers and Zale Corp. also were affected.

“More than four dozen stores were initially impacted by the hurricane—mainly those in malls from Texas to Ohio—but five days after the hurricane, less than a dozen were still closed,” said David A. Bouffard, vice president, public relations, Sterling Jewelers. “Many in southeast Texas were directly affected, while others, such as in Ohio, were affected by winds that brought down power lines, closing malls.”

A number of Zale Corp. stores closed as a result of Ike, primarily Zales and Gordon’s in the Galveston/Houston area. Zale was still assessing damage a week after the storm, said Zale Corp. vice president and treasurer David Sternblitz. “We did our best to temporarily place our jewelry consultants in other stores while we worked to reopen locations impacted by the hurricane,” Sternblitz said.