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Tuckers celebrate 70 years in the jewelry business

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‘Taylor County really supports their independent stores...and busines

By Josh Claywell

 

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It was 1948 and Main Street was booming.

Cleaver Young and his wife, Martha, were looking to open a jewelry store downtown after moving to Campbellsville from Kansas City, Missouri – but there was no space available at the time.

Then they caught a break. A restaurant was going out of business and a local realtor called them asking if they’d like to buy the space. The couple jumped at the chance, opening what was known then as Young’s Jewelry Store.

The Youngs sold all of the equipment from the restaurant to open the store. Young, however, died in a car crash in 1955 – leaving the future of the store in doubt.

That’s when Morris Tucker, who owned a jewelry store in Greensburg, stepped in and helped Martha keep her store going. The two eventually fell in love, married in 1957, renamed the shop to Tucker Diamonds & Gold, and then had a son – Doug – in 1958. Doug is the current owner, running the shop with his wife Kathleen.

The rest, as the old saying goes, is history, and the store is celebrating its 70th anniversary this month.

“… We were doing things way, way before other jewelers were doing things,” Doug said Monday afternoon. “In the early 60s as a kid, my dad was doing custom design work. I give a lot of credit to him because I learned probably 95 percent of what I know from my father.”

Morris was the second jeweler in the state to earn a diamond degree from the Gemological Institute of America, and Martha had a business degree from Nazareth College, which is now Spalding University, in Louisville.

“When they started out, it was watches, costume jewelry, some precious metals and diamond jewelry,” Kathleen said. “His mom told me once, ‘We started with one diamond ring. When we sold it, I ordered two. When we sold those, I ordered three.’ That’s how they built it up.”

And it’s been successful ever since.

Doug graduated from Eastern Kentucky University in 1981 and became a bench jeweler, which is an artisan who uses a combination of jewelry-making skills to make and repair jewelry.

Doug’s specialty is making custom jewelry and repairs.

“We’ve had some people come in and say, ‘I’ve taken this everywhere and nobody can do anything about it.’ I tell them to let me look at it and see what I can do,” he said.

One such person was Dakota Meyer, a United States Marine Corps veteran who was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2009. The Columbia native was in need of someone to repair the medal because it was broken – but no jeweler he went to would even attempt to fix it.

Doug wasn’t one to shy away from a challenge, and he figured he could at least take a look at the medal and see what he could do.

“He said he had taken it many places to be repaired and nobody would do it. I said, ‘I’m pretty sure I can do it,’” Doug said. “He said it finally broke because it had so much wear and tear on it. It finally just snapped in two. That was probably one of my greatest pleasures, repairing a Medal of Honor.”

Doug said he was nervous repairing the medal, but not just because of its prestige.

“Yes, because you’re not sure the outcome,” he said. “But I did it and it was really no big deal. Surprisingly, it was pretty easy to do. I repaired it and he was just exuberant.”

Kathleen recalled Meyer as just an Average Joe.

“He was just a regular person and he was just so sweet,” she said.

Those are the kind of stories Doug and Kathleen – and their staff of Debra Benningfield, Debbie Eisenmenger, Patti Phillips and Leah Simpson – thrive on.

“Probably the most rewarding thing is when I hear somebody say, ‘Oh, this is beautiful,’ or ‘Oh, I love it,’” Doug said.

Though the store is right next door to its original location, Doug and Kathleen said there were times when people in the community tried to get them to leave downtown.

Main Street was no longer thriving like it was when the store first opened, and shopping centers of all kinds were popping up around town. But being a family that relies strongly on faith, the couple prayed about it.

Every time the answer was the same: stay put. So they did.

“There was a period of time where we kept hearing downtown was dying,” Doug said. “People were wondering why we were still there, but we were always committed to downtown. We love it. We’ve always relied on a lot of faith and prayer. We prayed and the answer that always came back was ‘stay here.’ That’s our greatest fear, is things that are beyond our control. We didn’t want to move. It’s too risky to have an established business move somewhere. We love it right here and we didn’t want to move.

“Looking back on it, with God’s help we made so many right decisions,” he continued. “It hasn’t been a straight path and often it’s been difficult, but we’ve endured. Every time we were tempted, we would do the numbers – and the numbers didn’t make sense. It just didn’t make sense.”

And now the store is celebrating a milestone anniversary.

The Chamber of Commerce is planning to have a ribbon cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. May 10 in honor of the store’s anniversary and its history.

“Taylor County has been amazing,” Kathleen said. “Taylor County really supports their independent stores, their independent businesses and business owners greatly appreciate that. We wouldn’t be here without the people.”

Kathleen said the store will do giveaways that day, including a pearl necklace, bracelet and earring set.

“It’s Mother’s Day weekend, so someone’s gonna have a gift for their mom that’s gonna be pretty nice,” she said.

Kathleen has invited all of the downtown business owners to stop by. They have also invited all past employees to the ceremony.

Reflecting on his career, Doug said it’s hard to fathom the store being open for 70 years. But he said he’s fortunate the business is still going strong.

“… It’s been an absolute pleasure serving the local people here and the local community here and providing service to them,” Doug said. “It’s had challenges and many, many great memories over the years. I love it, I love it. Somebody asked me at church two or three weeks ago when I was going to retire. I’m not. I don’t want to.

“I don’t know what the future holds, but right now I have no plans to retire.”