Jewelry store owner Ronnie Adolf has decided to retire from the business he’s worked in since high school.
His retirement means Adolf Jewelers in Henrico County will close, probably sometime early next year. A retirement sale has begun.
Adolf Jewelers has been in the Ridge Shopping Center off Parham Road since 1975 and was at another location for five years before that. His parents founded the company, which has its roots in a costume-jewelry shop started by his mother in 1961 in a leased space inside of a womenswear store in Willow Lawn.
“I loved my career path,” said Adolf, who started working at his mother’s shop in 1966 when he was 13 by folding boxes and washing windows.
“Sure, there were a lot of challenges over the years. I had no education for it. I winged the whole thing, which was fun,” he said. “The hard part is saying goodbye.”
The timing, he said, is right for him to retire and close the 3,600-square-foot shop.
He wanted to go out on a high note — he said he’s not retiring and closing the store because sales are distressed. Rather, Adolf Jewelers had one of its strongest years in sales in 2016, he said.
“Sales are good. Business is good. The community has treated us great,” said Adolf, who turns 65 in August. “We have been through a lot over the years. The economy has had its ups and downs, and we survived and prospered through it. We have had a bunch of attacks on our business and survived them all.”
Adolf said he wanted to retire and have the store come to an end on his terms.
“This store is me — I’m nearly 65 and I’m ready to retire because I can,” Adolf said. “Eat, sleep and breathe this business for 48 years, and you’ll be ready to retire too.”
He decided not to try to sell the business because hardly any independent jewelry stores in the U.S. have been sold in the past few years.
Adolf Jewelers’ closing will mean only a handful of independent jewelry stores remain in the Richmond area, including Cowardin’s Jewelers and Carreras Jewelers, reflecting a national trend of large chains growing and dominating the industry.
In the 1970s, the number of independent jewelers peaked at more than 28,000 stores in the U.S., according to the Jewelers Board of Trade, a credit bureau for the industry. The number now is closer to 20,000.
After working at his mother’s shop, Adolf took his first job in the business in 1969 at the Zales jewelry store at Willow Lawn while he was a junior at J.R. Tucker High School in Henrico.
His mother, Jean, operated the costume-jewelry shop inside the Flair womenswear store at Willow Lawn and then expanded to a second Flair store downtown. She left those stores in 1970, and she and her husband, Kurt, who had managed a Rees Jewelers store, opened the Adolf Jewelers store in a shopping center at Glenside Avenue and Staples Mill Road.
Adolf left Zale’s in 1972 to work at his parents’ store, which has expanded twice — in 2000 and in 2008.
His father, a Holocaust survivor, died in 1982. His mother died in 1990.
Adolf said helping the Richmond-area community is an important part of what makes a good business.
He also has been willing to lead the way regarding social issues he feels are important. In 2013, before same-sex marriages were recognized under Virginia law, Adolf announced a line of jewelry, including wedding bands, designed specifically for same-sex couples.
In 2015, he was given the Retail Merchants’ Distinguished Retailer of the Year award.
Adolf believes many of his employees, who he said are like family, will be the hardest hit by the closing, but he said they understand why it has to happen.
“What upset me and scared me the most was having to tell my employees, some whom have been with me for 20 to 25 years,” Adolf said. One employee, Doug Spradlin, has been the store manager for more than 45 years and Adolf considers him to be “the heart and soul of Adolf Jewelers.”
“When I told them I was retiring and closing the store, they got up and hugged me,” Adolf said. “That defines our business.”