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Jewelry Store Closes After 69 Years, but ‘We’re Not Done Yet,’ Says Owner’s Son

‘More than one customer had tears in their eyes.’

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Shown here is Andy's Jewelry in 1962.

LOOKING BACK more than 50 years, one of Keith Anderson’s earliest memories is sliding in his socks across the polished terrazzo entrance to his father’s jewelry store in Blue Ridge, GA.

Built in 1962, when Anderson was 5, the building is still there, butting in the back to the tracks now used by a tourist train that is one of the town’s biggest attractions. And the old mosaic spelling out Andy’s Jewelry is still there, inlaid in the terrazzo at the front.

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The store itself is gone, however, one of 52 jewelry stores reported to the Jewelers Board of Trade as closed or sold during October.

“It was an awful thing,” says Anderson of the closing of a local institution, which dates back to 1949, when his father opened up to do watch maintenance for the railroad. “More than one customer had tears in their eyes.”

Anderson shed some tears of his own. The store, he says, was “an anchor in my life,” he says, and even now when he passes the old building, leased to a dress shop, “I still have ideas of leasing it back. Anything can happen.”

But probably not that, he admits. Since 1980, Anderson has had a small design studio, TK Anderson Designs, a little over 100 miles away in Athens. After his father died 20 years ago, Anderson’s mother, Betty, ran the old store and Anderson divided his time between the two. Since Betty Anderson’s death in 2017, the demands on his time became a strain, even for a man who says “I have always had a bad habit of working too much.”

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Plus, Anderson and his brother and sister, co-owners of Andy’s Jewelry, received “a tremendous offer” for the property, which sits in the middle of a highly desirable area in booming Blue Ridge.

So Anderson is resigned to the sale, more or less, even if he still rents a storage space containing all the miscellany he moved out of the store’s catch-all basement — leftovers from Anderson’s grandfather’s time, everything from hair dryers to musical instruments.

Before Anderson’s father built the new place to focus on jewelry, the store was “a kind of neighborhood Walmart,” in the words of Anderson’s son, Wes.

Wes Anderson, 30, works full-time with his dad in the Athens studio, running the design operation with state-of-the-art CAD equipment that leaves Keith Anderson awed by its capabilities.

Even considering the internet and its enormous effect on sales, he thinks the computer-aided design is the biggest thing to have changed in the jewelry business during his long tenure.

By the time he was 12, Anderson had his own miniature bench and an electric soldering iron to do “repairs” in the back of the store.

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“I never really thought of doing anything else,” he says, so after college, he returned to Blue Ridge and the family business.

“I am not much of a numbers guy,” says Anderson. “I never took the route that would make me the most money. I was lucky to find something to do that I loved.”

And that’s the secret, he says, to success in any business. “Find something you love and just love it.”

Wes Anderson started working off and on at the Athens design studio while he was in town as a student at the University of Georgia. After graduation, he joined full time.

“I was shocked,” says Keith Anderson. “You know, things happen, and I had had a divorce from his mother, and I think he just felt sorry for me at first. But he really jumped in, and after a year he had found his place here.”

Wes Anderson does most of the design work these days, as his father moves gradually toward retirement, possibly next year.

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“I won’t buy a condo in Florida and sit,” he says. “I have always wanted to be an artist-jeweler instead of jewelry-store-owner jeweler. For me, retirement is getting to make jewelry that I want to make for myself.

“I have a beautiful collection of stones, waiting on me to play with.”

Recently, father and son worked together on CAD to transform one of those stones into a five-carat diamond engagement ring that sold for more than $150,000, representing the largest single sale of Keith Anderson’s long career.

“Legacy is important to both of us,” says Wes Anderson. “And we’re not done yet.”

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