After 119 years serving the Conway community, Fletcher Smith’s Jewelers is going out of business and is having a retirement sale of up to 70 percent off.
Current owners Fletcher Smith, III, and Sherry Smith said the company started with Fletcher’s grandfather, who also worked for the Log Cabin Democrat.
"He had been working for the Log Cabin in pretty much every capacity, but moved to El Dorado in 1917 to take over the El Dorado Tribune," Smith said. "Two years later, he moved back to Conway and purchased the jewelry store form JJ Livingston in 1919. He, along with his wife, ran the store through the Great Depression until 1940."
Fletcher said his father entered World War II and his grandfather had died, leaving the company to his grandmother and father.
"When my dad returned from active duty, he had no choice but to help my grandmother with the business," he said. "Then, in the late 1940s, my mom started helping him, working in the store."
He said his father and mother ran the store until the late 1970s because of his mother’s health.
"In the mid-70s, Fletch started working at the store," Sherry said. "We purchased it from Fletch’s parents in 1992."
Throughout its many years, the jewelry store has been in several locations in downtown Conway, but moved to its current location Nov. 13, 2007.
The Smiths said the customers during that time have been the same, along with new customers along the way.
"As I look back, the friends we have made over this stint warms my heart more than anything," he said. "Of course, no business can be successful without its loyal customers. We’re very grateful for the friendships and loyalty they extended to us."
Sherry said it has been a great journey with great memories.
"I had one lady come in the other day in tears," she said. "She said the we have been with her through the birth of her children, the marriage of her children and the birth of her grandchildren. She said she didn’t know what to do.
"I think that sums up what we have tried to do. We have tried to be a contributing part of the community. I hope we have done that."
Fletcher and Sherry have several memories of the store, including a beauty parlor being a part of the store at one time.
"The beauty parlor’s balcony opened up to the jewelry store," she said. "You had the older ladies coming to get their hair done. They could watch the younger people come in to get their engagement rings."
Fletcher said throughout the store’s history, there have been many people who have been a part of the community.
He said people through the Great Depression helped build a strong sense of community, which his dad taught him to give back to.
"Dad always preached to me that we have to give back to the community," he said. "He also told me that Conway was the best kept secret. It has more to it than what a lot of people see. One day, the cat will be out of the bag."
One way the Smiths are giving back to the community is keeping the doors open and selling merchandise to the community instead of selling it to a liquidator.
"We’ve talked to several liquidators about purchasing it, but we thought we’d rather have the community at the price we are selling the merchandise at than having others giving us the money for the store," she said. "I think it would be a disservice to shut the doors down in one day than to let the community come in and see us."
Fletcher said he wanted to see his friends and the community while the store closes down.
Sherry said she and Fletcher would like to keep the store open, but their children aren’t interested in doing it.
The sale will continue until all the merchandise is gone.
"We purchased a lot of merchandise in the spring for the fall, so we have a lot of backlog of jewelry that we are putting out," she said.
Fletcher said it will be tough turning the key for the final time, but he and Sherry are looking forward to retirement and spending time with each other outside of work.