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story.lead_photo.caption The Sentinel-Record/Richard Rasmussen CLOSING SHOP: Stephens Jewelers founder and owner Steven Kirsch, in his store on Wednesday, said he plans to retire after 40 years of running his jewelry store.

A business that has provided fine jewelry to Garland County for four decades will start taking steps toward closing today.

Stephens Jewelers, which has stood on Central Avenue for the past 30 years, is beginning its process of closing down. Stephens has long served as a jewelry fixture in Hot Springs, providing its customers with high-end pieces that display a wide assortment of precious stones and metals.

With his passions and having grown up in Hot Springs, owner and founder Steven Kirsch said that going into the jewelry industry just made sense.

"We basically wanted to do fine jewelry and open up a store, and Hot Springs was where I was born and reared," Kirsch said.

Kirsch's passion for fine jewelry came about during his childhood. He said his father and grandfather owned auction galleries in downtown Hot Springs, and making jewelry was part of their business.

From watching the men in his life utilize the craft, Kirsch conceived his dream of going into the jewelry business. His dream took off when he opened Stephens at 100 ABT Towers, now Regions Bank in downtown Hot Springs, in October of 1976. His wife, Clarissa, said that the spelling "Stephens" was recommended by the business' advertising agency, which said that it would look better on a logo.

Kirsch said his first few years of running Stephens were an intense time for him as a businessman.

The Sentinel-Record/Richard Rasmussen BYGONE DAYS: A 1976 article in The Sentinel-Record featuring the opening of Stephens Jewelers.

"I was young, 20-some-odd years young," Kirschman said. "I didn't have credit. I knew the jewelry business -- I knew what to do and how to do it. But you still have to get into your marketing and your advertising. I would sit up worrying at night, like every businessman does."

After 10 years at his downtown location, Kirsch moved to his current place of business on the southwest corner of Central Avenue and West St. Louis. He said that he was quite pleased with how the architectural firm that he hired constructed his building.

"We told them that we wanted something that looked new, but in 20 years, wouldn't look outdated," Kirsch said. "It was nice, it was clean and it had a good flow through the store."

From that location, Kirsch enjoyed 30 straight years of providing jewelry -- some made-to-order -- to the residents of Garland County. Clarissa Kirsch said that her husband's custom designs are one of the big draws for customers.

"People come here because he's so great at designing jewelry," she said. "That's why people like for him to design their rings -- because he's one of a kind."

Two aspects of business Kirsch said he prides himself on are customer service and product preservation. He said he makes a point of providing coffee and conversation to anyone who walks through his doors.

"I want to be treated, when I walk into a store, the way I treat people when they walk into my store," Kirsch said. "This is not high pressure. You come in, and we'll drink coffee, we'll tell some war stories, and if they need something for their wife, their bride, their anniversary or their graduation, we'll make some recommendations. If they like it, they like it."

Kirsch said while he has remodeled jewelry that has been handed down over generations, he tries his best to preserve his customers' pieces. He is even known to turn away people who want to sell jewelry in their family, telling them to save it instead.

"People will say, 'We're gonna take these diamonds out, and we're gonna do this.' I say, 'No, you're not gonna do it. You can go take it and put it in a safety deposit box now. If I take that apart, I'm gonna spank you,'" Kirsch joked.

Stephens will begin a store wide clearance sale today, marking the beginning of the end of the business. They will be selling what Kirsch estimates to be 1,500-2,000 pieces of jewelry, including pieces with diamonds, rubies and emeralds and watches with crystals that date back to the 1900s. Kirsch said he will be selling his jeweling equipment, as well.

"I'm gonna sell them at cost, some of them probably below cost," Kirsch said of his jewelry. "I need to unload."

Though Kirsch plans on retiring once he has gotten rid of all of his products and equipment, he said he is pleased with what he has been able to do in his time as a jeweler.

"We've just had a good time," Kirsch said. "We've had a lot of fun, we've made a lot of friends."

Local on 11/17/2016

Print Headline: Jeweler closes after four decades

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