FARMINGTON — The shelves at Trask Jewelers are nearly bare as closing time nears.
The longtime jewelry, gift and watch-repair business on Main Street will close for the last time at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 31.
Owner John “Jack” Anderson approaches the day with mixed emotions.
“It will be a hard day,” Anderson agreed as several customers continued to browse the remaining items Monday.
“Many have come in just to shake my hand and thank me for all the years,” he said.
Knowing people and calling customers by name has been the best part of owning the business since 1981, he said.
“I like small-town life,” he said. “I like the Norman Rockwell approach to life. It is more than just about making money. It’s about being a good steward of the community.”
After buying the store, he served as president of the local business association. In the late 1970s, he restarted the community’s July 4 parade, a now popular annual event, and continued to oversee it, along with the Rotary Club, for 20 years, he said. He also remains active at Henderson Memorial Baptist Church.
On the flip side, the hardest part of being a small business owner is the long hours. For any business owner, it is very long hours, he said.
Anderson started working at the store when he was 7. He swept floors for his father, Paul H. Anderson, who then owned the store. He was engraving pieces by the time he was 9, he said.
After finishing college, he started working there full time in 1975. In 1981, he bought the store.
As a customer asked for a necklace chain to be shortened, she inquired, “Who will do this now?”
It is a question that has been asked frequently since Anderson began a long-term sale earlier this summer. A retirement sale notice was posted in the window over Thanksgiving weekend.
“We’ve always taken care of people,” he said.
Whether costly jewelry, estate pieces or watches, the store has offered repairs and engraving since it began in 1855, he said.
“We rarely turn anyone away,” he said of inexpensive watches and jewelry also brought in for repair. “A costume piece of jewelry is just as valuable to them as diamonds.”
The store began in 1855 on Broadway as Blake Jewelry Store, owned by J.A. Blake, he said.
Anderson produces a gazetteer from 1926 which labels the store “the leading jewelry store in Franklin County.” An ad for the store boasts watches, clocks, gold, silverware, cut glass and all kinds of repair offered by the oldest established jewelry store in the county.
Blake sold the store in 1928 to L. G. Trask, who worked as a watchmaker for Blake, Anderson said. He changed the name, moved it to Main Street and owned it until the senior Anderson bought the store in 1955. He moved it across Main Street to its present location.
Anderson originally sought a buyer for the store. When no one was found, he chose to close its doors.
People have responded well. The last month was extremely busy with people sometimes waiting outside for the store to open, he said. At times, it has been wall-to-wall people.
“There were so many people in the store on the Saturday before Christmas, I thought the floor would cave in,” he joked.
But now it is time for Anderson to enjoy life and spend more time with his father, who is 95 years old, he said.
His longtime store manager, Beth Neeley, who has greeted customers, kept the front window decorated and assisted Anderson with buying and sales for nearly 21 years, is also retiring, he said. They were classmates at Mt. Blue High School.
Future plans are in flux, he said. He is toying with the idea of a smaller repair shop on a part-time basis in the future, but there is currently no plan in place.
“Now the great adventure begins,” he said.