By Lenore Fedow
Yax Jewelers in Howell, Michigan, which opened in 1917, began its store-closing sale last week.
Howell, Michigan—Yax Jewelers opened its doors in 1917 in Howell, Michigan, a small city a little over an hour just about an hour northwest of Detroit.

Founder Lawrence Yax passed the business down to his son Donald, who later sold the store to Charles Blanks, the previous owner of H.C. Blanks Jewelers in nearby Hudson, and his stepson Tom Cunningham in 1973.

After spending more than four decades in the store, Cunningham plans to close up shop in the coming months.

The former president of the Michigan Jewelers Association said the forty 40-plus years has “gone by in a flash” and reflected fondly on his customers, both old and new.

“Grandparents bought their wedding bands from us and now the grandchildren are coming in for engagement rings,” he said.

Cunningham, in fact, had just gotten off the phone with a customer of more than 40 years when National Jeweler caught up with him by phone Tuesday.

The longtime jeweler said he made his foray into the industry as a teenager, helping with engravings in his stepfather’s store.

Cunningham, who holds the Graduate Gemologist title from the Gemological Institute of America and is also an American Gem Society Certified Gemologist, did all the repairs, gold and silver work, and stone setting for customers on-site.

The in-house work has “always been a significant point for our customers,” he said.

He credits the store’s success over the years to the staff’s customer service expertise and knowledge of jewelry, noting, “We can usually answer questions before the customers even ask them and we never pressure any customer to make a purchase.”

20190213 Yax counterYax Jewelers is located at the former site of the McPherson State Bank.Despite the store’s decades of success and sterling reputation, Cunningham’s children, who are in their 40s and 50s, all have high-paying jobs, he said, and will not be taking his place.

“I’m the poor one,” he quipped.

Yax Jewelers has been operating on the corner of W. Grand River Avenue since 1978, when Cunningham and his stepfather relocated the business to the former site of the McPherson State Bank.

The store began its closing sale last week, offering shoppers deals on fine jewelry, from sterling silver pieces to multi-carat diamond jewelry.

Cunningham said he signed a purchase agreement to sell the two-story building to a group led by Geof Greeneisen of Rescue LLC, a local real estate company, for an undisclosed price.

The group plans to renovate the building, converting the upstairs to apartments and office space and will seek out a retail tenant to replace Yax Jewelers.

As for life after Yax Jewelers, Cunningham plans to play golf and visit his grandchildren via his camping trailer.

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