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Business Was Good, and So Was the Economy. He Closed His Jewelry Store Anyway

Marshalls Jewelers is among 71 stores listed as closed, merged or sold by the Jewelers Board of Trade.

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YEARS BEFORE HE DECIDED to close Marshalls Jewelers in San Luis Obispo, CA, Jeff McKeegan had his escape plan ready: a beach in Uruguay, a forest on the South Island of New Zealand, a farm in Northern Ireland, “just about anywhere, really,” he told the local Chamber of Commerce.

Jeff McKeegan

“When retirement finally comes, I will be off like a shot.”

Retirement finally came. Marshalls Jewelers is among the 71 stores listed as closed, merged or sold in the preliminary January report from the Jewelers Board of Trade.

His closure of a local institution heading toward its 130th year certainly was not taken lightly. He spent two years “questioning whether this is the right decision,” as he explained to the San Luis Obispo New Times.

On the one hand, “Business has been good, the economy has been good so we figured we might as well, we’ll do it now,” he told the San Luis Obispo Tribune.

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Although he had found the jewelry business incredibly rewarding, it seemed time to pursue his old dream of traveling the world with his life partner (now husband) of more than 40 years, Steven deLuque. On the other hand, there was a powerful legacy to consider.

Manuel Marshall opened the store in 1889, eventually passing it to his son Art, who in turn sold it to cousin Clifford Chapman.

In 1981, local college student Jeff McKeegan stopped by the store to pick up a gift. It proved to be a life-changing serendipity, and soon after left his jobs a waiter to go to work for Chapman at Marshalls.

“Working beside him daily for years was the best schooling I ever had,” he said of Chapman, according to the chamber. “I have never known anyone who gave of himself more every day. His concern and care for others was complete and genuine.”

In addition to his love of fine jewelry and custom design, Chapman passed on to McKeegan the fundamental lessons of running a retail business: “Compassion. Humility. To put people first – before things, before process.”

After more than a dozen years working with his mentor, who died in 2012, McKee bought Marshalls with a business partner in 1993, and quickly began to expand the store’s reach into the rapidly evolving world of computer technology.

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“You have to reinvent yourself from time to time,” said McKeegan of the changes he instituted over the years. “But you don’t want to run the risk of losing what you have, what is already working.”

What worked for Marshalls throughout its long history was a solid emphasis on customer service.

“Anyone, any store or studio, can have good merchandise to sell,” he told the chamber. “You have to set yourself apart with the service you give. It is the personal connection that keeps you going strong. I love that we have clients now whose families have been with us for generations. To engender that kind of loyalty you must not only treat people well, but let them know by your actions that they are important to the success of the business.”

Shortly before the store’s closing, he reminisced to KSBY-TV, “We had a young man in here the other day, 16 years old, came in said he wanted to buy an engagement ring. He said, ‘I don’t have a girlfriend … but my family has always bought their engagement rings here and I’ll be the fifth generation and I want to have a ring when I find the right girl.'”

Such stories were told and retold in the weeks before the store’s closing.

“I can’t tell you how many tears have been shed on both sides of the counter,” McKeegan told New Times.

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“It’s bittersweet, but I’m going.”

Like a shot.

A veteran U.S. journalist, Bill Hutchinson has received several national awards for writing and editing. He lives in Mexico City.

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Jewelers to Pay $16,000 in Restitution for Scheme Targeting Military Families

They were convicted last year.

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SACRAMENTO, CA – A California jeweler must pay restitution in connection with a scheme targeting military families.

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge ordered defendants Ramil Abalkhad, owner of Romano’s Jewelers, and Melina Abalkhad, owner of MBNB Financial Inc., to pay the victims $16,440.56 by May 4, 2020.

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Video: It’s Not My Problem When You Buy a $120 Ring and Your Wife Finds Out It’s ‘Fake’

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Video: Things to Remember When Dealing with ‘Gonna Buy’ Jewelry Customers

“Individuals who participate in despicable crimes by targeting our young men and women in uniform will pay the price,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “We hope today’s announcement brings healing and closure to the victims of this scheme. Our office will continue to protect all Californians from all types of fraud – large or small. The California Department of Justice will always have the backs of our military families.”

Romano’s Jewelers had several retail locations in California, including stores near Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, according to a press release from Becerra’s office. The Abalkhads were alleged to have targeted young Marines and sailors, encouraging the purchase of jewelry using MBNB Financial for credit. According to the criminal complaint, Ramil Abalkhad failed to provide legally required disclosures about monthly payments, interest rates and others terms of financing.

Those customers who fell behind on their payments were allegedly harassed by the defendants’ debt collectors. In addition, the complaint alleged that Romano’s Jewelers used debt collectors who falsely posed as attorneys and illegally threatened servicemembers with court martial and other military disciplinary actions.

The California Department of Justice filed a 14-count felony complaint charging the defendants with conspiracy to violate the Unruh Act, which protects consumers who buy goods or services on credit, and the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which protects Californians against unlawful debt collection practices.

Becerra announced the sentencing of the defendants in December 2018. Ramil Abalkhad was sentenced to three years of felony probation, including a requirement that he serve 90 days in jail.

He will also be required to cancel outstanding MBNB debts owed by the victims identified in the criminal complaint and was also ordered to remove any negative credit reporting by MBNB from the victims’ credit history.

Melina Abalkhad was sentenced to complete a misdemeanor diversion program for her role in operating Romano’s Jewelers affiliate MBNB Financial.

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Jewelry Distributor Arrested With $15M in Counterfeit Goods, Police Say

$15M in counterfeit merchandise was seized.

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The owner of a business in the downtown Los Angeles jewelry district has been arrested for allegedly selling counterfeit jewelry.

Moossa Lari is accused of felony trademark violation, according to a press release from the LA Police Department.

Moossa Lari

Investigators conducted several undercover buys and surveillance operations and determined that he was “a major distributor of counterfeit jewelry nationwide,” the release states.

Search warrants were served at multiple locations in the jewelry district on Nov. 7 by LAPD in collaboration with the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations and Custom Border Protection.

Officers seized about $58,000 in cash and over $15 million counterfeit jewelry with Street value of over $1 million, according to the release. Counterfeit jewelry recovered included fake Hermes, Gucci, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Rolex, Michael Kors, Cartier, Tiffany Co., YSL, Dior, Calvin Klein, Guess, Van Cleef and Bvlgari pieces.

The counterfeit jewelry was tested at the scene and did not meet U.S. safety standards, the release states.

The standard of acceptable lead and cadmium is 90 parts per million. The seized counterfeit jewelry tested as high as 200,000 parts per million.

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Video: It’s Not My Problem When You Buy a $120 Ring and Your Wife Finds Out It’s ‘Fake’

It’s not the jeweler’s fault she got mad.

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LIKE ANY JEWELER, Cullen Wulf sometimes runs into customers who aren’t looking to spend much money.

Unfortunately, sometimes their expectations are way out of line with what they’re willing to pay.

In the video below, Cullen re-enacts a scenario where he encountered just such a customer — a customer whose wife was unhappy with her sterling silver and CZ anniversary gift.

The customer felt that Cullen was to blame, and Cullen set the record straight.

Take a look.

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