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Inside Bulloch Business with DeWayne Grice - After 95 years, H.W. Smith Jewelers closing
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The year was 1919, President Woodrow Wilson would sign the Versailles Treaty officially ending World War I. Prohibition was in full swing and the city of Statesboro had just completed paving the Main Streets through downtown.

1919 also was the year Harry Smith opened his jewelry store (H.W. Smith Jewelers) in downtown Statesboro, which was destined to become a landmark of downtown. Well, after nearly 95 years in operation under various owners, H.W. Smith will close its doors for good on Thursday.

Harry operated the store successfully for many years before turning over the reins to his son-in-law Dub Lovett, who apprenticed with him. Dub was a master jeweler and clocksmith. He could make or repair almost anything. He was as personable and passionate about the city and our downtown as Harry was and continued the traditions and the commitments Harry had set in place.

Harry's two daughters, are Statesboro matriarchs in their own right. Jean Mathews and Joyce Lovett's impact on our community is something that would take a short novel to explain. They are still neighbors who live just outside the city and continue to contribute in remarkable ways.

When it came time for Dub to retire, it was important to his family to sell the business to someone who understood their values and traditions and would continue them in a way that would make their family proud. With this in mind, they selected Vicki Hill to continue the business.

Vicki, a native of Atlanta, met her husband, Statesboro native Randy Hill, while attending the University of Georgia. After college, Vicki moved back to Atlanta and worked for Tiffany's in its corporate gift division. She describes her time at Tiffany's as an opportunity to work with some of the top jewelers in the world, matched by the most prestigious clients in the world.

That experience, more than any other, she said, prepared her for the future opportunity of owning H.W. Smith. Upon returning to Statesboro, her career took a little detour working as a merchandise buyer for T.J. Morris Company for 15 years before purchasing H.W. Smith's in 1995.

When I asked Vicki about the secrets that made H.W. Smith Statesboro's oldest continuously operating business, she said: "Incredibly unique selections of jewelry and china coupled with impeccable customer service. From the first day that Harry opened this store, until our last day in operation, this simple business principle is what set us apart."

Longtime client and friend Carol Howard agrees.

"The whole town will miss her," Howard said. "She is so kind and sweet, such a pretty lady inside and out. Vicki goes out of her way to make everything perfect for you. She was so caring and cares about every little detail. She has a unique ability to make you, the giver, equally excited about the gift you are giving as the recipient. She is a wonderful Christian, a real cut above! Good mom, good wife and a great asset to our community who will certainly be missed."

Vicki said: "One of the best parts about owning this business is that I had the opportunity to work with clients though life's highest points, from helping select their graduation gifts, to meeting a groom to pick out the perfect wedding ring, then helping select china patterns for their weddings to engraving the first cup for their child. Those are the life events I will miss sharing with my clients."

"As someone who was born and raised in Statesboro shopping at H.W. Smith was a tradition that was very important to me personally," said Jan Moore, the mayor of Statesboro. "It is truly an end of an era. Vicki has an extraordinary sense of taste and style, and her business certainly enhanced downtown in many ways. It makes me sad to learn of her closing, but I understand she has come to a season in her life where it is important to slow down and enjoy all the things she has worked so hard for."

For the past decade, employee Angela Potter Lord has put her "Tiffany's" touch on the window displays. These highlighted each season and will be the one of the most notable things many of us will miss. Currently Statesboro's oldest business, when it closes Thursday, it will have operated for 95 years in downtown Statesboro in the same location.

Thank you, Vicki and Angela, for your commitment to downtown for so many years. As you both enter the next chapter of your lives, we will remember the impact you have made on so many of our lives.

Please email DeWayne at dgrice@statesboroherald.com or give him a call at (912) 489-9499.

 

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