Three venerable jewelry stores—Bensons Jewelers, Manoli’s Jewelers, and Hutchinson Jewelers—are the latest round of industry long timers to decide to close their doors.
These closures are the result of slower sales in the case of Bensons Jewelers in Washington D.C., a family death in the case of Manoli’s Jewelers in Springfield, Mo., and a retirement for the owners of Hutchinson Jewelers in Boonville, Ind.
Ken Stein closed Bensons Jewelers in February, saying that the coronavirus pandemic and related changes in the workplace around his store in the nation’s capital are some of the reasons why he felt it was time to close his business.
“Our [sales] trend was going downward pre-Covid,” Stein says. “Our age demographic wasn’t young enough. We didn’t have that many women 21 to 45 buying for themselves and we definitely didn’t have anyone under age 18. The older clientele were my lifeblood.”
But even those customers seemed to cut back, and seeing his December sales slow down to a third of what they should be told Stein that it was time to shutter the business.
Bensons has been part of Washington’s retail scene since 1939. Stein’s father purchased the store and Stein himself started working there when he was 22 years old in 1979.
“I’ve had a job since 1979,” Stein says with a laugh. “Now, I’ve been finishing up ‘honey, do’ errands and cleaning out my garage. My garage is so clean you could eat in it.”
Those final days in the store were melancholy but also had their high notes, Stein says. For example, a woman came in and said she wanted to stop in one last time. Stein pulled some stock of different price points out of his remaining items—and the woman ended up purchasing thousands of dollars in jewelry that day.
“She said she wanted to support me, and I appreciated it,” Stein says.
With the death of family patriarch Manoli Savvenas, the Savvenas family has decided to close the store and liquidate its inventory, the family says.
Manoli’s Jewelers was the second career for Savvenas—he was a professional wrestler known as Mike Pappas. He even wrestled for the WWF with greats such as Macho Man Randy Savage and Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase. At his high point, Savvenas worked in Madison Square Gardens as part of his time as the Flying Greek.
Savvenas wrestled for more than a decade, but the constant travel started to wear on him. He and his family settled in Springfield, where he started to do repair work. Manoli’s Jewelers has been in business since 1979, offering its specialty jewelry, goldsmith services, and team of graduate gemologists to the Springfield community.
Valerie Savvenas says she decided to close the store after her husband’s death in December. He had started making jewelry as a child in Greece, and he loved what he did for his customers and his community, the family says.
Ralph Hutchinson is one of those rare individuals who get to see his 90th decade—and it seemed like it was time for him to retire after more than 65 years in the jewelry business.
Hutchinson began working in jewelry in 1955 after serving in World War II and attending watch-repair school. He worked for another jeweler for a short time before he was asked to serve in Korea. Upon his return to his home state, Hutchinson finally got to open his own jewelry store.
His son, Roger, took over the business and joked that he couldn’t retire until his father did—and that day finally came. The store is officially closed as of Feb. 28. Roger is still working a bit to finish up some repairs and clocks that needed to be finished.
However, Ralph is enjoying retirement outside of the store’s regular hours, store officials say, and he only comes in as needed.
Top: Ken Stein and his family ran Bensons Jewelers for half a century but felt it was time to close the Washington D.C. store because of declining revenues. (Photos courtesy of Bensons Jewelers)
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