PLACERVILLE (CBS13) — The oldest jewelry store in the west is closing its doors after 166 years.
When F.F. Barss started the business in 1852 he had no idea it would still be making customers happy over a century later. The business got its start during the gold rush.
"There's a mine shaft that goes underneath this building and so you didn't have to go far to find gold," said current owner Charles Stephens.
In 1981, when he was 29, Stephens bought the business from Bull Randolph.
"He said he wanted to sell it. And, I said 'what do you want for it? 'He told me and I said 'OK.' that's how long the negotiations really took," Stephens said.
Stephens continued to call it Randolph Jewelers because people knew the name and the neon sign was already there.
Everywhere you look in the store there's history. Stephens said most of the stuff has been around for 100 years.
Each item has a story, including two special rings. A woman brought them in 65 years after her husband bought them. She gave the rings back to the store, wanting them to stay there after she and her husband were gone.
"She said, 'I want these rings to go into that case.' It's a poignant demonstration of the connection people feel with the store," Stephens said.
It's an emotional time for Stephens and his longtime customers.
"I cry. This is about the fourth time we've come in since the closing notice," said Susan Keck.
Keck has fond memories of her father buying gifts at the store. Now she's buying gifts for her two daughters-in-law.
"We can tell them where those lovely pieces of jewelry came from and what the history of that is," Keck said. "This place is a place of legacy. That's why I get so sad they're closing. But, it's time."
Stephens said he has had a steady stream of customers coming in before Valentine's Day.
Randolph Jewelers closes officially Saturday at 4 p.m.
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