DeKALB – John Wright was just a former electronics store manager looking for a job when he started at Burch Jewelry in 1980.
What he found was a passion that led him to open Wright’s Jewelry at 124 E. Lincoln Highway in 1985, the last of the six downtown DeKalb jewelry stores that operated when he first opened his doors.
But those doors closed Thursday as Wright decided 32 years in the jewelry business and 27 years of running his own business was enough.
“You meet a lot of people in the store that become friends for life, and I’ll miss that,” Wright said. “You get in a routine opening your store everyday at the same time, so tomorrow will be different, but everyone tells me [retirement] is going to be great.”
Wright built a reputation among his customers as the last true jeweler in the county because he was able to set pieces, design and make repairs right in the shop. He would even have same-day repairs in some instances, he said.
Learning the art of being a jeweler was a process that did not stop until he closed the doors.
“It takes years to master and there is still a learning process going on,” he said with a laugh.
The shop also was known for its welcoming atmosphere, as evidenced by the table of treats and drinks it had for its customers Thursday. Melody Wright, John’s wife and business partner, said providing lemonade, chocolate and other treats became a tradition at the store.
Katherine Gannon, a regular at the shop, said it was that warmth and the diversity of jewelry that kept her coming back over the past three years. Whether she wanted vintage, antique, gold or any other jewelry, Gannon said she knew Wright’s would have it.
“The uniqueness of the selection and the wide variety of the price range is amazing,” she said. “There isn’t any other jewelry store that offers what they do.”
One of the other signatures of the store will live on. John Wright plans to keep working with his collection of more than 1,000 World War II posters.
The collection is one of the largest in the country. He has already done paid speaking events at museums about the memorabilia. He said more speaking events and possibly a book about the collection could be on the horizon.
Customers still will have limited chances to get Wright’s jewelry. John Wright said he plans to do watch repairs by appointment only, and Melody Wright will sell some items online and is renting a space at American Treasures in Geneva.
The now-closed DeKalb location could also be open for a couple of days closer to the Christmas season, Melody Wright said.
Because John Wright owns the space, he said he will try to sell it or rent it. But if the jeweler’s itch comes back, he said nothing is out of the question.
“My family goes back a couple generations in DeKalb, and we plan on being here forever,” Wright said. “I guess I could always reopen.”