Mills Jewelry closing shop after 69 years

By DAVID DUPONT

BG Independent News

Saturday afternoon was like many others at Mills Jewelry on 192 S. Main St., Bowling Green.

Someone stopped in to pick up earrings from her grandmother that had the posts reattached. Another woman picked up a necklace that had been repaired and was looking at rings. Another customer needed a battery for an older watch.

And David Mills and his sister Diane Mills Haslinger were there to help them just as members of the Mills family have been for the past 69 years.

On May 7, though, Mills and Haslinger will close up shop. A chapter of Bowling Green retail history will close.

While the siblings agree they’re ready to take a break from the day-to-day grind of running the shop every day except Sundays and holidays. Haslinger said she’s looking forward to traveling and visiting grandchildren. Still she admits some mixed feelings.

She raised her children here, she said. “It’s bittersweet.”

As of Monday, the store will offer customers a last chance at the merchandise at sale prices for up to 50 percent off.

The Mills family got into the jewelry business before World War II. Glee Mills learned watch repair working at Norm Crosby Jewelry in downtown Bowling Green in a storefront now occupied by the Busy Thimble. Glee Mills went off to serve in the Navy during the war and when he returned to Bowling Green he got back into watch repairs, working out of his home. When Norm Crosby decided to sell the business to move to California, Glee Mills and his mother, Clara, bought the jewelry store. In 1952 the jewelry store moved to 188 S. Main Street and became Mills Jewelry. It operated there until the 1970s when it moved a few doors south into the current location in the mini-mall built by Doug Valentine.

Both David Mills and Haslinger went to work for the business in the 1970s. She had worked for Huntington Bank, and he’d come home after serving a two-year stint in the Army.

Their father continued to come into the store every day even if it was just to sit and watched TV. He died in 1995. Their mother, Lois, also worked in the store until retiring 2½ years ago. Their Uncle Clare also worked for Mills Jewelry for a time. Those were the days when Bowling Green’s Main Street boasted three jewelry stores Klever’s, Dill’s and Mills. Now Waddington will be the sole jewelry store in the downtown. Vanderhoffs, which took over the Klever’s business, has a shop on Haskins Road.

Mills said when his mother quit working he figured it was time to close the store. That left just him and his sister to run the store. The decision was made last December, he said

“It’s tiring,” Haslinger said.

The business climate has changed over the years, the siblings said. Now they have big box stores to compete with. The new Kroger Marketplace will have a jewelry counter, Mills noted. And more and more people are shopping on line.

It’s harder and harder to operate a small business, Mills said, between the competition and taxes.

Watch repair used to be a major part of the business. At one point, she said, the store employed three watch and clock repairmen. They repaired 50 to 60 watches a week in the 1950s and 1960s, Haslinger said.  That business dwindled with the advent of digital and Quartz watches. Now people just use their phone to keep track of time, she said. “Watch repair still big, but for the sentimental people.”

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