John Stoehr assists customers Saturday at the Davenport Street jewelry store his father started 40 years ago. The current state of the jewelry industry has caused Stoehr to start the process of closing the longtime downtown business.
11/27/2012 7:30:00 AM Longtime jewelry store closing its doors Jim's Jewelry Stoehr has been a staple of the downtown since 1972
After four decades, a downtown Rhinelander business is preparing to close its doors.
John Stoehr said the decision to close the Davenport Street jewelry business his father, Jim, started in 1972 did not come easy. But earlier this month, Stoehr began a "going out of business" sale, citing the current economic climate of the jewelry business as a major factor.
It depends on how quickly he sells the store's remaining inventory, but Stoehr said he anticipates staying open through Valentine's Day.
"The main reason is the high price of gold, silver and diamonds," Stoehr said. "All the metals are going so high, it makes the jewelry that much more expensive and harder to sell. I don't see it getting better anytime soon."
For example, silver currently is around $35 an ounce. Stoehr said just a few years ago it was at $7 an ounce.
"All of my product has tripled," Stoehr said. "A lot of people have a hard time affording the jewelry."
Stoehr said closing the family business is something he has thought about over the last couple of years. He has tried to make up for the downward trend in sales with repair work, but sustaining that type of business model is becoming increasingly difficult, he explained.
"The last three years, it really became tough," Stoehr said. "(The prices of metals) started making quality jewelry out of reach for people. I understand it. We're a luxury item. I'm not selling bread and eggs. If you're having a hard time paying the gas bill, you're not going to buy a big diamond. That's where we're at."
"I just don't see a change coming," he added. "I see it getting worse, not better. I study (the industry). I watch all the business channels. I don't want to be downbeat about it. It's just how things are."
The store has been a family endeavor from the start. Over the years, the store's employees have been family members or friends so close they could be considered family. Currently, Stoehr works alongside his mother, sister and aunt.
Stoehr's first official job was at the store. At 10-years-old, he said he started helping out on occasion - doing janitorial work, making lunch runs for his father.
"I grew up into it," Stoehr said. "It was fun. My dad would pay me and I would go get comic books across the street at the drugstore."
In 1998, Stoehr took over the store. He said he never envisioned going out of business.
"The jewelry business is really having a hard time because of the high price of metals," Stoehr said, noting that more than 1,000 jewelry stores closed nationwide last year, a recent statistic he read in an industry magazine. "There's a lot of competition. The Internet is hurting the business too because people can just order jewelry online. Young people don't even think about coming in to a store. We're in a different time. A different mindset of the shopper."
Stoehr said his two children don't have an interest in taking on the business. If they did, he said that could have potentially factored into his decision about closing the store.
"As things are right now, I would tell them don't do it," Stoehr said.
Business has picked up at the store since Stoehr announced his intention to close and started the sale Nov. 7. Sometimes people have been waiting outside when he opens the store in the morning.
"So many people have stopped in to say sorry to see you leave, we support you," Stoehr said. "I'm second generation, a lot of my customers are second generation. I've known them for years. I'm going to miss seeing those people. We made a lot of relationships over the years."
And Stoehr said he'll miss the service he was able to provide to people.
"I'm going to miss being able to make something meaningful to people - wedding rings, family sets that will be with them their whole life. That was the best part of the business," Stoehr said. "I'd run into someone and they'd say, I still have that beautiful ring you made me. I'm going to miss that. Jewelry is an expression of love, so you're helping people in a loving relationship. What better thing is there than that?"
Stoehr said he's not sure about what awaits him in his post-jewelry business future. He said he has some ideas, but won't make a decision until he officially closes the doors to Jim's Jewelry Stoehr. Jewelry will continue to be his trade for at least a few more months yet.
Since things have been busy at the store with the "going out of business" sale, Stoehr said there has also been little time to fully reflect on 40 years of business in Rhinelander coming to an end. His father, who passed away in 2010, has crossed his mind though.
"I keep thinking about what my dad would think about it," Stoehr said.
Kyle Rogers may be reached at email@example.com.
Posted: Friday, December 7, 2012
Article comment by:
I find this story very disturbing. Another trusted small family business falling to the wayside due to our present economy. I have known John for many years and he has always been an honest, caring person willing to do anything to assist another. I truly wish him and his family the best in whatever future endeavor they undertake.
Posted: Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Article comment by:
I am deeply saddened to hear that the only jewelry store I trust and have adored since I was young is closing. My Grandma Keyes who passed away in 2007 would have me run there to pick up jewelry she'd have repaired and there was a special ring made by Jim that my grandfather had designed where you add a diamond for every year you were married. I, too, was planning to have a ring made just like hers and was in the design process of it. Just close all the other jewelry stores. We don't need them.
The Northwoods River News | Walker Communications, LLC 232 S. Courtney Street, Rhinelander, WI 54501 | Office (715) 365-6397 | Fax (715) 365-6361
Corporate billing office: The Lakeland Times / Lakeland Printing Inc. | P.O. Box 790, Minocqua, WI 54548 | (715) 356-5236 | Fax (715) 358-2121 Members of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, Wisconsin Community Papers, Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce, Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce