Gary Thrapp Hangs Up His Hat

After 32 years, the owner of G. Thrapp Jewelers in Indianapolis is closing his doors

Gary Thrapp began his jewelry career in an unlikely way: getting a job at a jewelry store in Santa Barbara, Calif., as a way to stay near the beach and then, eight years later, bringing his skills back to Indiana. He founded G. Thrapp Jewelers in 1984 with three cases, and today the store is 3,000 square feet. G. Thrapp Jewelers has been consistently recognized as one of the best luxury retailers in the country, and it was named one of JCK’s Top 10 Designer Retailers at JCK Las Vegas 2015.

This year, Thrapp announced he was retiring and closing up shop; a liquidation sale started on Nov. 19. JCK spoke with Gary Thrapp, the owner of  G. Thrapp Jewelers in Indianapolis, on the first day of his closing sale. Things were busy, but happily so, it seemed. “We haven’t aggressively advertised it, but it’s crazy in there,” Thrapp says of the sale.

JCK: What are you feeling right now, starting this sale?

Gary Thrapp: It’s bittersweet. It’s very emotional. I’ve come to the same building for 32 years for the job. Every store is different I suppose, culturally, but we are a neighborhood store. We’ve done good things for the neighborhood. We have a strong civic conscience. We are involved in churches and schools.

JCK: When did you start thinking that it was time for you to retire?

Thrapp: I started thinking about it and had it in the back of my mind for about two years, but I started thinking about it really seriously about a year go. I spent a lot of time interviewing the companies that do this process, and then chose the one that I always knew I would use, the Gordon Co. Unfortunately, there is no blueprint to get you from when you make the decision to when you sign the contract and have the liquidator come in and start the process. And that was the toughest thing, just trying to keep everybody together. It was a process just full of anxiety.

JCK: Did you consider selling?

Thrapp: I did. I talked to the primary broker in this area and talked to a couple of other brokers through my investment bank advisor, and everybody just sort of felt that the business was too connected to me, it was too personal. And I began to think that most of the people that I work with, my employees, have been there a long time, and it’s difficult to pluck out Gary and expect them to stay. They are assets unto themselves. No one seemed enthusiastic about the idea.

The other thing is, I own the property, the commercial real estate, and it’s very important to me that the neighborhood connects properly with the tenants in the property. So now I’m working with someone who I think will be a really great and seamless transition for the space and the neighborhood.

JCK: What has been your favorite part of owning a jewelry store?

Thrapp: I love our industry. It’s so deep and so broad and you can participate in so many different ways. We do a lot of estate jewelry and period jewelry, and it just amazes me day in and day out the things we get to work with and the people we get to meet. My first jewelry job was in Santa Barbara, Calif., in 1974. And I just fell in love with it, how interesting it is, and how it attracts interesting people. I can’t imagine doing anything else, and I haven’t.

JCK: What is next for you?

Thrapp: I will be doing some private-client kinds of things. I will probably evolve more to the higher end estate types of things that I’ve been accustomed to, more looking to buy than to sell. And I still own the property where the store is, so that will continue to take work.

JCK: Are you counting down to your first day of freedom?

Thrapp: I think it will be around the 15th of January, maybe a little sooner. I’m going to curl up on my lounger and watch football on demand. I have a home in Naples, Fla., that I love. It’s right on the beach. My wife and I are anxious to get down there. I just want to let it all drain for a bit, and recharge the battery a little bit. There will be some tenant work that has to be done to the space. I hope to just relax a bit and think straight again.

My wife, Barbi Thrapp, was also involved in the business, she’s been such a good person for the store. She’s also a designer; she makes a really beautiful beaded necklace and bracelet line with our granddaughter Taylor called Bebe & Tay. And her line is really popular and developed, and it’s growing and expanded to a few stores in Indiana and Naples, Fla. So she’ll focus on that.

I think she also feels she is going to get 100 percent of her husband back, that could be good, that could be bad. I think she’s counting on it being good!

JCK: Do you have a most memorable sale from your time at the store?

Thrapp: There have been a lot of significant things we’ve done in 32 years, but the one that comes to mind is a small thing. I had a call one day from a woman wanting to know if we did custom work, which we do—we have a studio with four goldsmiths. So she made an appointment and came in, and she brought a napkin with a stick drawing of a cello. She was a concert cellist, and her father had also been a concert cellist. And this cello on a napkin was the last thing he drew for her. She wanted to know if I could make that simple little thing exactly as he drew it so she could wear it. And we did it. And as simple as that was, for me, that meant more than the largest sale you could ever do. 

(Photos courtesy of Gary Thrapp)