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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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Failed Fashion Jewelry Chain Is Coming Back

It will operate primarily as an online brand.

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Jewelry and accessories retailer Charming Charlie may have gone bankrupt and closed its 261 stores, but you can expect to see the brand resurface in coming months.

Charlie Chanaratsopon, founder of the company, is acquiring its trademarks, internet properties and other intellectual property for about $1.23 million, the Houston Chronicle reports. He was approved to buy the assets following a bankruptcy auction.

He plans to revive Charming Charlie as primarily an online brand. It will have only a few permanent brick-and-mortar stores, which will open early next year.

The company’s main advantage is its 10-million-strong customer base, said Chanaratsopon, former CEO of Charming Charlie.

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“In this age of retail, we still see an opportunity for the brand to thrive in the online ecosystem,” he said, according to the Chronicle.

The company said in July that it was closing all of its stores in connection with its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filed July 11.

Read more at the the Houston Chronicle

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Online Jewelry Brand Raises $6.2M in Funding

Ross-Simons has taken a majority stake.

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CRANSTON, RI — Luca + Danni Inc., a online jewelry brand based in Rhode Island, has closed on $6.2 million in funding, with Ross-Simons Inc. becaming the majority investor in the deal.

PJC, a Boston-based VC Fund and early investor in Luca + Danni, will retain a stake in the company.

The investments “create a powerful partnership between an iconic jewelry company and three-year-old digital brand,” according to a Luca + Danni press release.

Fred Magnanimi, founder of Luca + Danni, will remain as CEO and board member.

“I started this brand to honor my family’s 50+ year heritage in US made handcrafted jewelry and help others embrace the journey of life as I learned to do after losing my brother to leukemia,” said Magnanimi. “With the amazing resources and strategic support of Ross-Simons and PJC, I am confident we will help millions embrace their own journey and continue to build our community.”

Ross-Simons, also based in Rhode Island, has a long history in retail and direct-to-consumer jewelry sales.

“Luca + Danni is a digitally native brand rapidly taking market share in the jewelry space,” said Jim Speltz, president of Ross-Simons. “Our resources, product expertise, and go-to-market experience matched with Luca + Danni’s powerful brand will foster meaningful growth in the evolving e-commerce world.”

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She Woke Up Without Her Engagement Ring. Guess Where Doctors Found It …

It all started with a dream. (Story with video.)

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A San Diego woman woke up without her engagement ring, and she immediately remembered a dream she’d had the night before.

One where she’d swallowed her engagement ring.

Jenna Evans immediately told her fiance, Bob Howell, and they headed to urgent care. She told the story in a Facebook post that has gone viral, garnering 62,000 shares as of Sept. 16.

She ended up seeing a gastroenterologist, who performed an upper endoscopy.

“Everything went great, they found my ring just beyond my stomach in my intestines, retrieved it and gave it to Bobby, not me,” she wrote.

She also divulged a bit about the dream that got her into the predicament.

“I was having a dream that Bobby and I were in a very sketchy situation involving a high speed train and bad guys (I have very exciting and vivid dreams) and he told me I had to swallow my ring to protect it; so I popped that sucker off, put it in my mouth and swallowed it with a glass of water riiiight about the time I realized what I was doing,” she explained. “I assumed this too was a dream, because WHO ACTUALLY SWALLOWS THEIR ENGAGEMENT RING, so I went back to sleep.”

The ring was made by Simone Jewelry Designs in Houston. CBS8 reports that it includes a 2.4 carat diamond.

Watch a news video about the incident:

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