A family owned jewelry store that's been a staple in downtown Valparaiso is closing after more than four decades of helping couples get engaged and celebrate anniversaries.
Engstrom Jewelers at 3 Lincolnway across from the Porter County Courthouse in downtown Valparaiso is shutting down in a few weeks. Owner Greg Engstrom plans to semi-retire — he has real estate and other business ventures he plans to keep going.
"I've been at this a long time, and I own some other businesses and so forth," he said. "The industry has changed. It's gone more online. I'm old school and not internet savvy enough to change over. Internet sellers do it much differently."
The jewelry business also has become dominated by large retail behemoths.
"There's been a lot of consolidation," he said. "The strong have grown stronger, and the weak have grown weaker. The chains have huge marketing budgets, which makes it difficult for independents to compete even though I'd say we have better quality than the big box stores."
Engstrom opened the jewelry store in 1975 after his mother, an art teacher, taught him about jewelry design and repair.
"At this point I've sold wedding rings to people, then to their kids and then their grandkids," he said. "When the third generation comes in that's when you start feeling old."
Downtown Valparaiso has since staged a major comeback, and a health food store is waiting in the wings to replace Engstrom Jewelers when it closes.
"At the time, people went to the shopping centers and the malls," he said. "It's changed totally. The downtown is back the way it was 100 years ago where people are shopping on the main floor and living on the upper floors."
Engstrom Jewelers is not, however, the only jewelry store to leave downtown Valparaiso in recent years. Martin Binder Jeweler departed in 2014 after opening a new 9,000-square-foot store on U.S. 30 that was three times as large as its original location. The neighboring storefronts, Old Style Inn and Seasons on the Square, both shuttered earlier this year.
After a liquidation sale started, old customers have been flooding into Engstrom Jewelers with fond reminiscences, both online on Facebook and in person. The shop has been so swamped employees sometimes haven't been able to grab lunch until late into the afternoon.
It will stay open for a few more weeks as the jewelers work on sizings and remountings.
"We've been overwhelmed by all the kind words and the support, all the stories we've heard," Engstrom said. "But things change. We'd like things to stay the same all the time, but there's an evolution. It can be kind of sad but it's out with the old and in with the new."