Since 1977, Crown Jewelers has occupied the same storefront at the north end of Pittsfield’s Allendale shopping plaza, supplying fine jewelry and exceptional service to generation after generation of loyal customers. But now, it’s time to move on.
After 37 years running the business — 25 of them as owners — Tim and Mary Whalen have decided it’s time to go out on top. “I think there’s this veil of negativity that surrounds a theme like ‘going out of business’ sales, but this is being done, not because business is bad, but because it’s the right time for us,” Mary Whalen said. She and her husband will trade in the 24/7 responsibility of business ownership for a well-deserved retirement, but not before thanking their loyal customers with one final sale, to last until every display case is empty.
The people behind Crown Jewelers
Tim Whalen was a 20 year old car salesman when Crown Jewelers’ original owner, Ed Chandler approached him about taking a job at the shop. Tim’s family were regular customers at Crown, and the offer intrigued him. He took the opportunity, launching what would be a life-long career as a creator and purveyor of fine jewelry.
Tim started out handling smaller jewelry repairs, but his aptitude and enthusiasm for the craft had him quickly moving up to designing and creating custom pieces for his clients, as well as working the sales floor. When the original owner stepped away from the business in 2000, it was a natural progression for the Whalens to take over as owners.
“I have always been fully vested in Crown Jewelers,” Tim said. “My mission has always been to provide quality jewelry at affordable prices and to provide customer service above and beyond.”
And that they did. Crown Jewelers has been named “Best in the Berkshires” for jewelry by Eagle readers nearly every year, winning seven times in the last seven contests. In 2004, the company was chosen to provide lapel pins for members of then-Governor Mitt Romney’s administration, as well as cufflinks handed out to high-profile visitors to the State House.
The Whalens credit their small, tightly-knit staff for much of their success. “We’ve had some fabulous employees over the years,” Mary said. “We’re very fortunate that our retired or past employees have asked to come back and be a part of this, as well as a fierce ‘commitment to the very end’ from our devoted current employees.”
Employees Maria, Jessica, Nancy (who retired after 35 years at Crown and has returned for the final sale) and Linda (another previous employee, and Tim’s sister) will stay on until the sale is completed, and continue to roll out the red carpet for customers as always. The Whalens’ son, Bryce, has his own full time job, but still jumps in to help out nights and weekends.
“Your business is only as good as the people that you surround yourself with,” Mary said. Even during the challenges of the last two years, “they’ve really been our backbone. All of our employees, past and present, have certainly contributed to the success of this company, for sure.”
‘We really have become like family’
The biggest contributors to the store’s long life, however, are the individual customers who have loyally supported Crown through the decades. “We have been so fortunate to meet some incredible people and have formed lifelong relationships,” Tim said.
“For a business to stay in business, you have to create lifelong relationships that are multi-generational,” Mary said. “We have the most loyal customers that have been coming here for 45 years. I had a conversation with a woman yesterday and she said, ‘I bought my first necklace here when I was 18.’ They brought their children, their grandchildren to us.”
When the first liquidation sale signs popped up in Crown’s windows in late January, they triggered a wave of love and support from the store’s devoted customer base. “The first couple of days of the sale, there were a lot of hugs from customers. Sadness, that we’re leaving. People asking, ‘where are we going to go now?’” Mary said. “We are so grateful to our customers for their unwavering loyalty, their trust, their confidence in us. And the friendships. We really have become like family.”
Her voice was thick with emotion as she spoke about these precious relationships. “We are so thankful and so grateful for all of them, because without them, we wouldn’t have been here for 45 years”.
Clearing the shelves
The Whalens have opted not to choose a specific closing date for now, choosing instead to carry on with sales until their inventory is gone. The store’s entire stock is on sale with discounts up to 70% off, including an expansive selection of silver, gold, birthstone jewelry, diamond jewelry and engagement rings.
While prices have been cut, customer service remains as important as ever. “Our goal is to give the same great service that we’ve always given, up until the last day of the sale,” Mary said.
The sale is a final goodbye to the generations of customers who have supported the business since its grand opening 45 years ago.
“We can’t thank our customers enough for their loyalty, trust and business over the years,” Tim said. “ We couldn’t have been in business for this long without them. Thank you all for being a special part of the Crown Jewelers legacy.”