Carrie Rengers

Last Barrier jewelry store to close

The economic climate is what caused Carl Barrier to start his namesake jewelry business in the early 1930s, and it’s also what’s forcing his grandson to now close his.

Stewart and Sally Barrier are closing their Signatures Fine Jewelry, which has been at 306 N. Rock Road since 1995.

“There’s been a Barrier in the business since the 1930s in this town, and we are the last of it,” Stewart Barrier says.

“I wanted to do this, but it’s a little earlier than I hoped,” he says. “Quite truthfully, it’s not a happy time for us as much as we’d like to think that retiring is a happy time.”

Barrier is almost 69, and he says he had hoped to work another year, but the economy won’t allow it.

“I think I’m in my fourth recession since I opened.”

He says the Great Depression is what prompted his grandfather to start his own jewelry business. He was working for someone else and not making much money, so he decided to work for himself.

In 1969, when Stewart Barrier was in college, he began working at Barrier’s and stayed for 25 years before starting Signatures.

He briefly returned to the business to help close Barrier’s in early 2010.

When Stewart Barrier started Signatures, he says the store offered areas of designer jewelry, much as stores do today.

“That was in a time that it wasn’t as quite in vogue,” he says. “It was a lot of times smaller houses.”

Barrier says it was “a little more exclusive in that regard.”

Signatures opened around the same time Pizza Hut moved its headquarters from Wichita, and Barrier says there’s been a parade of challenges since then, including 9-11 and the dot-com bust.

There have been successes, too, and the Barriers doubled the size of the store in 1999.

“Your numbers go up and down like a yo-yo,” Barrier says.

With the latest financial difficulties, including challenges in the oil and gas industry and aviation, he says, “I don’t want to battle coming back … from this one.”

Barrier says when people cut back on their spending, it’s an issue for all small businesses.

“It affects us pretty dramatically.”

The Barriers tried to sell their business but couldn’t find a buyer.

“Unfortunately in today’s market, we find that there aren’t too many people who are wanting to buy a small jewelry business.”

A closing sale will start Thursday and run until after Christmas.

Barrier says he hates that his employees are losing their jobs and says he and his wife will miss their customers.

“We regret having to close,” he says.

“I think we are leaving a hole. Everybody’s sad.”

Carrie Rengers: 316-268-6340, @CarrieRengers