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Jeweler forced to close

Business that has been in Burbank since 1967 falls on hard times.

May 26, 2010|By Christopher Cadelago
  • Allen Kessler helps Carol Nerone with a ring at Kessler Jewelers on Tuesday. The family-owned jewelry store that has been doing business for the past 43 years at the same location is going out of business.
Allen Kessler helps Carol Nerone with a ring at Kessler… (Scott Smeltzer/The…)

Kessler Jewelers, the family-owned business that for more than 40 years has been a fixture of the downtown shopping district even as everything around it changed, will close its doors for good next month, the family said.

An award-winning shop whose grand opening in 1967 coincided with the opening of the Golden Mall, Kessler served as the last remaining holdout of an era that saw seven downtown jewelers shut down in the last 50 years.

A sluggish economy, Internet competition, soaring downtown rents and the mass migration of buyers from brick-and-mortar jewelers to big-box chains have made for an especially tough last three years, the family said.

"Ever since the writers strike, things have been really tough," said Barry Kessler, 50, who began working for his father, Allen Kessler, at age 16. "Put simply: The rent went up, and what didn't go up was our profit margin."

Kessler Jewelers, whose four full-time employees boast a combined 135 years of experience in the business, has remained in the same building for the last 43 years. Founded by Allen Kessler, the company survived lean times by handcrafting and customizing much of its retail offerings.

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Customers personally designed and altered everything from engagement rings and wedding bands to pieces for newborns, children and sweet 16s. Other customers brought in watches to repair and rings, necklaces and bracelets to clean.

"They've been an institution in Burbank for decades," said Gary Olson, president and chief executive of the Burbank Chamber of Commerce. "As far as the business community is concerned, it's a big loss."

The closure will mean a personal loss for Olson, one of the shop's regular customers. But with the price of gold steadily increasing, Kessler was done in by what one expert called the "Costco-Wal-Mart-Internet Complex."

The megachains and discount and tax-free online retailers have the buying power to make good margins even in rough times, pushing mom-and-pop retailers to the periphery, said Bruce Ackerman, president and chief executive of the Valley Economic Alliance.

"All of a sudden, customization and craftsmanship become secondary," Ackerman said.

Sales and holidays, of late, have done nothing to increase profits, Barry Kessler said. Christmas sales figures were down 70% compared with the previous year, and Valentine's Day, the annual high-water mark for jewelry sales, was "virtually nonexistent," he said.

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