Avis Brewer has been considering retirement for years. Even when she’s not managing Avis’ Fine Jewelry, the store she founded with her husband, Cecil, 24 years ago, her plate is decidedly full. The 61-year-old owns and manages 53 apartment units, and has recently ramped up her volunteer hours at a local animal rescue organization, a side job she calls “her passion.”
But the June 20 robbery of her Thomasville, N.C., store—which saw three criminals tie up two of her employees before making off with $800,000 in merchandise—convinced Brewer that it was time to part ways with her beloved shop for good. (Cecil retired from the store last year.)
“The robbery was the last straw,” says Avis, who’s currently liquidating her remaining inventory in a going-out-of-business sale. “A lot of the merchandise was custom-made, which wasn’t really replaceable.”
The façade of Avis’ Fine Jewelry (courtesy of Avis’ Fine Jewelry)
Staffing woes and the proliferation of a more demanding and “ugly” customer also played into her decision to call it quits. “I don’t know, the customer has really changed,” she muses. “They expect you to give, give, give.”
The Brewers were on vacation when their store was robbed by two females and one male. The group entered the store and engaged the three sales assistants on the floor in showing them various items from inside display cases. “They spread out immediately,” notes Avis, who captured the criminal’s faces, definitively, with two cameras so well hidden, even the staff was unaware of them.
After debilitating the security camera operation they could see, the robbers tied up two terrified employees in the back room, and then forced a young male staffer to open all the display cases. Around 40 minutes later, the trio left the building with their loot, stealing one of the employees’ cars because their getaway car—an untitled vehicle they’d recently bought on Craigslist—wasn’t big enough to contain the stolen goods.
Police, who believe the robbers are part of a larger ring of criminals who also pillaged three other jewelry stores in the past year, found the stolen car down the street the next day.
While the case is still unsolved, GIA called Avis this week to report that one of the store’s diamonds has circulated back to them; investigators know exactly which New York dealer it came from. Now comes the challenge of tracing the individual who sold the diamond(s) to the dealer.
Because the Brewers had a rock-solid policy with Jeweler’s Mutual Insurance, they’ve been almost wholly reimbursed for their losses.
And Avis says her career as a jeweler has “been blessed,” adding that even throughout the recession, her business stayed financially sound. “I will miss the people,” she says, “but it will be really nice to be not so busy for once.”
A screen shot from Avis’ website this week (courtesy of Avis’ Fine Jewelry)