York Town Square

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Downtown jewelry stores: ‘It’s something you can’t experience at a store in the mall’

As late as 1968, the book “Greater York in Action,” boasted that Futer Bros. Jewelers, on York’s Continental Square, housed two floors of quality gifts.
That business was located in the Hartman Building, for years the tallest building west of the Susquehanna River. The building had recently been chopped from six stories to three, but what it lost in height, it had gained in appearance, the York Area Chamber of Commerce book stated.

Futer Bros., in York’s downtown since 1932, closed that store in 2006… .

Then Weinbrom Jewelers, a short distance west of the square on West Market and Beaver streets, shut down in January 2007.
Now comes the closure, probably in early 2008, of L. Morgan Jewelers, just off the square on South George Street.
From 1968 to 2008, the retail climate indeed has greatly changed in the heart of York.
A York Daily Record story (12/4/07) on L. Morgan’s closing follows:

Marta VanZandt stood behind the counter of L. Morgan Jewelers last week, reminiscing about the first piece of fine jewelry she ever bought.
It was a pearl ring she had put on layaway at Sievers & Devers, a jewelry shop at 17 S. George St., just off Continental Square in York.
“I used to come over and give a dollar or two every week for my layaway,” she said.
Later, VanZandt and her business partner, Ron Leathery, opened L. Morgan Jewelers at the same location where Sievers & Devers once sold VanZandt that pearl ring.
But now, after almost 19 years, VanZandt and Leathery are closing the store because of health issues with VanZandt’s husband.
VanZandt said, although she would like to pass her jewelry store on to a younger family member, there wasn’t much of an interest from the next generation in running the business.
When the merchandise is gone, VanZandt said, she will pull the door of the shop closed one last time.
“I am going to miss being in town,” she said. “Being able to look out the window and see things happening, whether it was watching snow fall or just seeing people walk by, it’s something you can’t experience at a store in the mall.”
York’s downtown shopping district has seen two other jewelry stores close within little more than a year.
Weinbrom Jewelers on Beaver Street and Futer Bros. Jewelers on Continental Square both closed their doors. A Futer Bros. location in Springettsbury Township is still open.
“It’s unfortunate to see L. Morgan go, but it is a transition,” Kevin Schreiber, marketing and economic coordinator with the York City Department of Economic Development said.
Schreiber said he’d like to see the soon-to-be-vacant storefront transformed into another retail shop, or be developed into something like an organic juice bar or a bakery.
With L. Morgan Jewelers closing, Karen Reiss-Staub, an employee at Max R. Reiss Jewelers on Beaver Street, said she will probably see an increase in business, but said it’s a shame to see a business close – even if it was the competition.
“I hate to see them go out. It’s another building sitting vacant,” Reiss-Staub said.
Reiss-Staub said she would like to take over the jewelry store from her father, Max Reiss, when he retires. Reiss opened his store in 1945.
Alexander’s Estate Jeweler owner Dietrich Thiessen said he also doesn’t like to see stores leaving the downtown area, and added that he can’t understand why people don’t frequent independent shops.
For the most part, Thiessen said, independent jewelry stores offer unique items because the shop owner can pick what he or she chooses, as opposed to being told what pieces to sell.
Thiessen said family and privately owned stores sell jewelry for less than the franchise jewelry stores.
“It is just a shame people don’t want to come downtown to save some money on jewelry,” Thiessen said.
Other stores closed
· Futer Bros. closed its shop on Continental Square in the spring of 2006. Owners consolidated the business at the company’s other location in Springettsbury Township.
· Weinbrom Jewelers closed its doors in January 2007.

Marta VanZandt, co-owner of Morgan Jewelers, shows off a York Safe and Lock strongbox in the downtown York business. The store is closing, the third such shop to close in the past two years. Background posts: Buildings reveal a bit about York and York Safe restoration ‘once in lifetime’ project.