Last minute shoppers seek bargains at Wilmington jewelry shop’s final days

One man came in to look for a gift for his wife.  Others peered through the glass display cases in search of a good deal on fine jewelry.  Wilmington’s Minster’s Jewelers closes for good after Christmas Eve, but its proprietor says it’s only part of an evolution.

Minster’s Jewelers “Since 1895” has been in downtown Wilmington for about 25 years.  Its current location on West 9th Street was supposed to be part of a cluster of fashion and boutique stores.

That plan never came to full fruition, due to the economy.

Now, merchandise is marked down 40% to 80% during the final two days of sales.

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President Will Minster says in no way is the decision to close the store an abandonment of downtown.  In fact, he has a new role as Director of Economic Restructuring for Main Street Wilmington, a division of Downtown Visions.

The jewelry store has survived periods of economic transformation, as well as several transformations of downtown Wilmington, which included a “pedestrian-only zone” along Market Street for several years.  That plan was abandoned, and vehicular traffic resumed.

“Any business that is downtown, you have to give their customers the highest regards, because they go out of their way actually to support downtown businesses,” Minster says.

He cites challenges that include parking, and the overall economic climate.  However, Minster says shopping downtown is “extremely safe.”

One issue is the perception that downtown Wilmington feels empty at the end of the business day.  That also is likely to change soon, according to Minster.  The historic Queen Theatre on Market Street is being rehabilitated into a World Cafe concert venue scheduled to open in April 2011.  Activities at The Grand Opera House, the DuPont Theatre and at the nearby riverfront are also expected to bring in more visitors during the evening hours.

The question is:  will they be in the mood to shop?  And, will small businesses be willing to make the commitment?

“It’s a 24-7 job, it’s your life, it is everything you have, your assets, everything.  You work it very hard,” Minster says.

Minster’s Jewelers continues to operate in Newark.

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