The Jewelers Bench is closing after more than 30 years in Augusta but will remain open for one last Christmas season.
Owner Stephen Cranford announced his retirement earlier this month after mulling over the idea since February. Cranford, who turned 64 in July, said he wanted to retire while still healthy and while his business was doing well. This past fiscal year, he said, ranked among the best five for the business.
Cranford is in the process of liquidating the store’s inventory and expects to close the 1462 Jackson Road business in January.
In 1980, Cranford started the jewelry store in an old self-service car wash bay next to his current building. He enclosed the small space and specialized in repair work, sizing rings and sorting chains for big department stores at Augusta and Regency malls, such as Sears, Belk and Montgomery Ward. The store later moved to a standalone building at the corner of Jackson and Wrightsboro roads.
Cranford’s three adult sons are in different professions, in different cities, so keeping the business in the family wasn’t an option, he said.
Cranford said he kept the news of his retirement quiet for months.
“It’s been tough not to tell close friends or family – nobody,” he said. “It’s been a long summer, but I’m glad it’s finally here.”
Also influencing his decision to retire was the prospect of spending more time with his five young grandchildren, who live outside of Augusta, and traveling across the United States and Europe with wife Trish.
In the span of 33 years, Cranford has kept the business afloat through three recessions and a vacillating gold market. Cranford said his business philosophy has been guided by the motto: Treat customers the way you want to be treated.
“You want people to talk to you and really seem interested in what you want,” he said. “We concentrated on that. You make sure it’s done right regardless of who the customer is and regardless of how much money they’ve got.”
Over the years, there have been engagements inside the store and anniversary gifts purchased by all generations. Cranford said he revels in being part of his customers’ special occasions.
“I’ll miss the people,” said Cranford, a daily fixture in the store. “We have a lot of characters who are customers. We’ve made a lot of good friends in this business.”