Column by Scott Purks
BRANDON — It is time, Joe Martin said.
Time to close Martin's Jewelers after 62 years.
Time to move on.
What will Martin miss most?
"Everything," he said, sitting in his shop on Oakfield Drive, surrounded by jewelry, employees and customers. "Everything."
He will miss driving up in the morning, sliding the key in the lock, turning the lock, flipping on the lights, checking his appointments, greeting his 12 employees, cleaning diamonds, watches, creating, repairing, appraising engagement rings, earrings, necklaces, and, most of all, working with his customers, who are, "an extended family."
It's in Martin's blood and the blood runs deep.
At 73, Martin looks back and feels good with the memories, from the beginning to the end.
He likes to tell the story, beginning with his father, Freddie Martin, a disabled Army veteran who started repairing watches out of his home on Parsons Avenue in 1954. Freddie was good at it and his little home business grew as Brandon grew.
A few years passed and Freddie asked his son, Joe, a plumber at the time, to help with the business. Joe didn't want to at first, but then, "My relationship with the customers made me want to stay."
So he did.
In 1969, when Freddie Martin died, Joe took it over with his wife Brenda.
Since then the store has moved seven times, but the heart and soul of it has held tight together.
"Brenda and I have lived here in this store," Martin said. "We have a kitchen in the back so we wouldn't have to go out for lunches. We worked an average of 50 to 60 hours a week and then during the holidays 70 to 80 hours a week. We have spent most of our lives (almost all of their 52 years of marriage) in the store and we have loved it.
"But now … it's time."
There have been discussions about someone else taking over because business is better than ever. But in the end the Martins decided it was best to shut the doors, setting the last day for sometime in mid January.
For Ricky Williams, who has been coming to Martins Jewelers for 45 years, it's a sad day indeed.
"I don't know a good (gem stone) from a bad one, but I never worried about that because I trusted Joe," said Williams, who was in the packed store Tuesday seeking something nice for his wife. "Now I'm going to ask Joe where I should go because I don't know where else to go. This has always been it for me, and I think that's true for a lot of people."
It is true.
Some customers have traveled hundreds of miles to Martin's because, as Williams said, "People trust Joe."
But, again, Joe said, "It is time."
"It is not an easy thing to walk away from," Joe said. "I don't want to, but then I'm also excited about having some new experiences. I want to travel with Brenda. I want to do some other things."
Will he dabble with jewelry and watches in any regard?
"No I won't," Joe said. "I've done everything I could do in this business. There is nothing left for me to do. I have no doubt. I'm ready.
"It is time."
Contact Scott Purks at [email protected]