Hurricane Rita Forces Jewelers to Close

Gulf Coast jewelers and other retailers, many still recovering from Hurricane Katrina, prepared for a new onslaught from Hurricane Rita, with many shutting stores in anticipation of what was widely predicted to be a massive hurricane.

Ben Bridge Jeweler pulled managers from its five Houston stores, all in malls (including two near low-lying, flood-prone areas), and then closed the stores. “Our people are our number one priority,” Jon Bridge, co–chief executive officer, told JCK. He said store managers in Dallas and Austin temporarily housed some of their colleagues and families from Houston.

Sterling, the second-largest U.S. jewelry retailer, has four freestanding Jared and 20 Kay mall stores in the Houston region, and told its employees to follow the advice of local authorities. Sterling has a communication system for such contingencies, with contact points between the home office and field locations.