CRESTVIEW — Keith Lewis, owner of Lewis & Co. Jewelers, says shuttering the business he has operated here for more than 20 years has been an "emotional" process.
"I have seen generations (of customers) come through this store," he said of the North Ferdon Boulevard business he grew from 875 to 5,000 square feet.
His departure won't be easy on his customers, either.
"Lewis & Co. ... is more than a jeweler; they're friends," Nancy Sparagowski, of Crestview, said. "Rachel Lewis Russell (Lewis' daughter) and Keith have provided personal assistance and their time without you ever feeling like they have other customers."
"We have been doing business with Keith and all his coworkers ever since he started in the jewelry business," Lee Ann Julius said. "Their customer service is excellent, and no other business can even come close ... I just hate seeing them go. They seem like family and they also treat you that way.
"Sad to say that this is the last Christmas we both will be getting jewelry. Keith had the best selection, prices and people working for him. (We) will not be satisfied doing business anywhere else."
Such sentiments would flatter Lewis, but still, it's time to retire, he said.
"I have decided within the last year that I am just tired," he said. "I have actually been working since I was 10 years old; I am just at the point in my life where I am ready to slow down."
And to move on. Lewis isn't just closing shop; he's also leaving Florida.
Instead of dealing in diamonds and gold — and displaying humorous, memorable billboards to attract people to the store — Lewis will be hunting, fishing and spending time with his grandchildren in Gantt, Ala.
Still, the decision is bittersweet, he said.
"I know I will miss everybody," Lewis said. "I have made thousands of friends in the 20 years I have been here."
And not just from business, Sparagowski will tell you.
"Keith has been a part of the community in everything from (being) the Spanish Trail Cruisers Poker Run sponsor to Relay For Life to assisting my sons — one through Boy Scouts and becoming an Eagle Scout, and one with raising funds for his People-to-People Ambassador trip."
The store's 11 employees, including family members, have already made plans for life after Lewis & Co., Keith Lewis said.
Joey Tinklepaugh, Lewis' son, plans to open a jewelry repair and design shop. Russell plans to spend more quality time with her children.
For now, the store is selling off remaining merchandise, including engagement rings and men's and women's watches. Everything has been marked down, up to 70 percent off, Lewis said.
"It's going to go fast, so if people want to buy for Christmas, they need to get in here," he said.
No close date has been set, but Lewis said the store would be open after the holidays, even if all the merchandise is sold and it's just to assist customer needs including ring-size adjustments.
"Just because I am closing doesn't mean I don't love my customers," he said.
"This is why Keith has been so successful!" Sparagowski said. "His staff of family members knows you when you enter, and never treat you like a customer. You are family...
"Saying they will be missed is an understatement."
WANT TO GO?
WHAT: Lewis & Co. Jewelers going-out-of-business sale
WHEN: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays
WHERE: 866 N. Ferdon Blvd., Crestview
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Matthew Brown at 850-682-6524 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @cnbMatthew.