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Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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After four decades in business, jewelry store to close doors
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Kurt Merchant (left), owner of Jacques Jewelers at Liberty Fair Mall, consults with store employee Cheryl Hairston about a display of rings. After 36 years in Martinsville, the store will close by the beginning of 2014. (Bulletin photo by Mickey Powell)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

“It’s just time.”

That was Kurt Merchant’s response when asked why he decided to close his family’s jewelry business, a Southside institution for more than four decades.

Jacques Jewelers at Liberty Fair Mall in Martinsville has not yet set an exact closing date. Merchant said the closing will be around Christmas or maybe a few days later, but the store will not be open when 2014 arrives.

Its closing has nothing to do with economic conditions or ongoing changes at the mall, he emphasized.

Rather, as he nears retirement age after 36 years in the jewelry business, “It’s time I stopped” working, said Merchant, 62, a second-generation retailer.

He is ready to do other things, such as spending time with relatives, he said.

Noting that his two sons live elsewhere, Merchant added that “not another generation (of family members) was interested” in taking over the business.

Jacques Jewelers was established in 1969 in Danville by Merchant’s father, Jacques Merchant. The Martinsville location opened in 1977 at Patrick Henry Mall but moved to Liberty Fair when that mall opened in 1989.

Merchant became a jeweler the year that Jacques Jewelers opened its local store.

To his recollection, the local store is one of four original tenants still open at the mall. Belk, Country Cookin’ and Foot Locker are the others.

After spending a year as a high school teacher, Merchant joined his father in the jewelry business because, he recalled, “I felt like he truly needed the help and it was an opportunity to make a living ... and to grow the business.”

Jacques Merchant died in 2000. The Danville store, as well as a store in Mechanicsville, which is near Richmond, have since closed as the business began focusing on the Martinsville store.

“You like to work where you live,” Merchant said. “Martinsville was my home, and I wanted to make a living here.”

Merchant said he has enjoyed the jewelry business because he has seen the pleasure that jewels give people.

He acknowledged that some people see jewelry as an extravagance, but he disagrees.

Based on what he has seen, it “fulfills a deep-seated need” in many people, one that is “as old as mankind itself,” he said, mentioning that the Bible has numerous references to jewels.

People enjoy jewelry, Merchant said, because it has “emotional value as well as intrinsic value.”

Merchant has noticed changes in retailing over the years, such as more and more items, including jewelry, being sold on television shopping channels and the Internet. Those sources have become competition for stores.

What sets stores — especially independent ones — apart from other retail sources is services they provide, such as repairing products, Merchant said.

Repairing jewelry has been vital to Jacques Jewelers’ success, he said.

“It’s important for a jeweler to service what he sells” as well as jewelry that customers have bought elsewhere, Merchant said, because if a person buys a piece of jewelry from a TV show or over the Internet, “there will come a time when that piece of jewelry needs a repair.”

As new trends in buying products evolve, stores must find ways of adapting based on what customers specify as being their new needs, Merchant said.

He added that retailers are seeing “a time of tremendous competitiveness, but those that adapt survive.”

The best part about running an independent jewelry store has been making “lots of friends and good, repeat customers,” Merchant said.

“That’s all a business can hope for,” he said, smiling.

Jacques Jewelers has seven employees. Merchant said each has indicated to him that he or she “will stick with me until the end” before seeking other jobs, and he is grateful for their loyalty.

Merchant and his wife, Carol, an administrator with the Martinsville schools, are the parents of John, who lives in Wilmington, N.C., and works for a movie studio, and Daniel, who is a rock musician in Philadelphia.

The store owner said he is looking forward to spending more time with his sons, as well as other family members in the Martinsville and Danville areas.

What he is especially looking forward to doing, he indicated, is getting to know his new granddaughter, Maxine, who is in Wilmington.

She is the Merchants’ first grandchild.


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