J&S Jewelry, a downtown staple on 16th Street for more than 60 years, will be closing its doors for good at the end of the year.
Phil Walters, whose late father, John Paul Walters, owned and operated the pawn shop the past 33 years, said the business simply became too much to handle.
“Obviously, it’s a combination of things,” he said. “No. 1, the retail business downtown is not what it used to be. And we don’t have a full-time person to do it.”
John Paul died in July 2011 after battling dementia-like symptoms for 10 years. He retired from the business in 1994. “My sister-in-law (Vicki Walters) and brother (Greg) ran it and he (John Paul) still helped out. She got another job in 2010.”
Phil, a captain for the Ashland Fire Department, was hired as a firefighter in 2000. “I worked here from 1986 to 2000. I got hired on (with the fire department) in May of 2000.”
What Phil liked most about working at the pawn shop was being around his father, who knew how to wheel and deal and also had good rapport with the customers. “This has been the hardest thing for me to make this call right here,” he said. “I knew how much Dad loved it.
“I liked being down here with Dad. That was the best part. When he got out of it and starting getting sick, it kind of lost its luster.”
Walters said it remains a viable business, but everybody already has a job in the family. “I think it’s obviously a good business to be in. (But) When you don’t have the time to put into it, or the desire, it becomes difficult. It’s more than a 40-hour-a-week job.”
During the heyday, the business would be open Monday to Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Walters said. “We’ve cut the hours back more to 10 to 4. But we’ll open up a little more getting closer to Christmas.”
As for the merchandise, he expects it to sell, especially the guns and the gold. “Guns and gold you don’t have any problem getting rid of. We have all kinds of golf equipment. Of course, some of it’s dated.”
There are many other items, large and small, available, he said.
“When we ran it, we got into a lot of new stuff but we still did the pawn,” he said. “With pawn shops, you have to have money to make money. You have to have somebody here. I don’t have the drive anymore, working so much at the fire department. I do jewelry repair and may still consider doing that because there’s not anybody in town that does it.”
His father started the business with Maurice Frank in 1950. It was then known as Jay Loan. “Some people still call us that,” Phil said. His father bought the business outright in 1980 and the Walters family has operated it ever since.
“Everybody in the family has worked down here,” he said. “My mother (Sylvia), my brothers (Tim and Greg) and a lot of dad’s brothers, too. Everybody in our family has had a hand in it.” Phil said his son, Michael, has been a big help the past three years.
Walters said the stock is down a little with a little more than 100 guns when the pawn shop once had more than 1,000, he said. At one time, the pawn shop was the biggest one east of Lexington, Walters said. It wasn’t unusual for other pawn shops to come and buy guns and tools from them, he said.
When his father was working the business, he would make deals and also buy items to help a neighbor out, Phil said. “I saw him do that a lot.”
Phil said his father worked one summer at Armco after high school and decided that wasn’t for him. The Ideal Loan Co. in the corner of the Paramount building was operated by Eddie Michaelson and Maurice Frank. Walters said they had a falling out and split up. Frank brought John Paul Walters with him and opened Jay Loan. Michaelson opened DNM Loan across the street from Jay Loan.
But now it’s the end of an era with the going-out-of-business sale under way.
“We’re going to try to sell merchandise and close up the first of the year,” he said. “That’s our goal.”
MARK MAYNARD can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2648.