Jeweler to close La Grande store

By BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH The (La Grande) Observer November 30, 2009 01:47 pm
Don McClure says his Baker City store is healthier and will remain open

LA GRANDE — Don’s Jewelry, a well-established retail business in La Grande’s downtown, will shut its doors by the end of the year.

Owner Don McClure said he is closing the store he has operated at 1216 Adams Ave. since the late-1990s for a variety of reasons, including sluggish sales during the current economic downturn.

 McClure’s Baker City jewelry store will remain open. He said running two stores at once proved too much.

“Due to these poor economic times and some health issues, I’m left with no other option but to downsize and simplify by closing the original La Grande location and focusing my efforts on the Baker store,” McClure said. He said he has developed high blood pressure which, fortunately, is “very treatable.”

McClure was born in Milton-Freewater and moved with his family to La Grande in 1971. In 1975, the family moved to Newberg. McClure graduated from Newberg High in 1976.

He always considered La Grande his hometown, and wanted to come back. He did, in 1984. Around that time Jason Mack, who owned I.J. Gems on Adams, encouraged him to get into the jewelry business.

“He asked me if I’d ever thought about becoming a benchman, someone who designs and repairs jewelry. The work appealed to my artistic side. I’ve always loved creating with my hands, and it just fit in,” McClure said.

Some schooling was in order. McClure attended the Ray Schow School of Jewelry and Design in Portland in 1985, then went to work for the Mack family as a goldsmith and a repairman.

He later went into business for himself, co-locating Eastern Jewelry Services with I.J. Gems. He designed and repaired jewelry for stores from the local area and out of town, including I.J. Gems, Mack and Sons, La Grande Gold and Silver, and more.

McClure decided to open his own full-service jewelry store in 1998. He moved into the retail space where Geppeto’s Shoes had been.

“There was another shoe store here before Geppeto’s. I realized the reason they weren’t doing well with shoes was because this was a jewelry store,” he said with a smile.

I.J Gems went out of business in 1993. McClure continued a friendly relationship with the Mack family.

Dan Mack, owner of Dan Mack Jewelers in Baker City, had asked McClure several times whether he would be interested in buying the Baker City business. McClure decided to take the leap in August 2005.

“Dan finally made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. The timing was right, and there was a good staff on board,” he said.

Since then, McClure has been running between the two locations. Because the Baker City store needed so much attention, he decided to make that his base of operations. He bought a home in Baker City.

He said running two stores some 50 miles apart has been been hard on him and has not left him much time for relaxation.

“It’s been extraordinarily stressful, seven days a week. It’s taken up an awful lot of time and it’s taken a toll on my health,” he said.

Though time and health played heavily into his decision to close the La Grande store, McClure said business hasn’t been the best in La Grande the past couple of years.

He said he always strives to maintain a close relationship with his customers. That’s been increasingly difficult since he opened his second location.

The poor economy has played a part as well, McClure said. In hard times, luxury items like jewelry don’t sell well.

“The national economy is bad and there’s a ripple effect,” he said. “It’s been a tough business to keep going. Jewelry stores across the country are closing left and right,” McClure said.

Of his two stores, McClure said the one in Baker City is healthier.

“Baker City is very stable, maybe not thriving, but stable,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have that second location and the chance to keep my career going.”

McClure is in the middle of a final sale in La Grande. Once the inventory and fixtures have been sold, Don’s Jewelry on Adams Avenue is no more.

“This isn’t a gimmick. I’m liquidating all the merchandise and I’m not bringing anything through the back door. When what’s on hand is gone, that’s it,” he said.

At the same time, he is leaving the possibility open that he’ll be back someday.

“I’ll always hope that when the economy recovers, I will have an opportunity to return to the Grande Ronde Valley both to live and do business again,” he said.