Rick Terry Jewelry Designs Closes Its Downtown Store

Rick Terry Jewelry Designs, 618 South Gay Street, Knoxville, February 2023
Rick Terry Jewelry Designs, 618 South Gay Street, Knoxville, February 2023

Downtown, once again, does not have a traditional jewelry store, as Rick Terry Jewelry Designs at 618 S. Gay Street ended its ten-year run on Valentines Day. When it opened, in November 2012, I noted, “While a jeweler may not be an essential ingredient of daily life, the presence of one in the center city certainly signals a healthy downtown.” It had been fifteen years since downtown had a jeweler and it truly felt like a vote of confidence in this modern resurgence that one would open on Gay Street.

A simple statement was posted on the window of the jewelry store, which read:

The Rick Terry Jewelry Designs at 618 S. Gay St. Will be Closed Permanently After February 14th

We are grateful for the opportunities and customers we have worked with during our time on Gay St. We have decided to consolidate our staff and equipment into our main location at 11329 Kingston Pike in order to pursue the highest quality customer experience. We look forward to servicing the needs of the community from our west Knoxville location in the future.

I called Mr. Terry to talk about the closure and he was gracious enough to spend a few minutes discussing it. He said while it was a tough decision, their lease was up and “traffic was the issue. There were not enough sales to keep it in the black.”

He said they started with a vision of what they wanted the store to be, shifted when that didn’t seem to work and were never able to gain the traction they felt they needed. The increase in tourism they saw over the last ten years helped, but “the average tourist spends about $100.” Not enough for a traditional jewelry store.

There were also challenges along the way that he didn’t anticipate. The pandemic, for example, shut the store down for months and killed momentum. The construction of the Tombras building was a blow as they had dumpsters in front of the store for a year and other construction barriers. For jewelry stores, seasons are important, particularly Christmas and Valentines. The construction heavily impacted two consecutive Christmas seasons. He also said he found it difficult to find an advertising medium that reached his downtown customers.

He said their model is more one of craftsmen and not big merchandisers. Simply put, “I’m a master jeweler and I want to be your jeweler.” He also looked toward the next several years and realized he’s ready to hand more of the business off to his sons who have steadily grown their skill and presence in the business.

Against that backdrop, he had to consider the entire business and what was best all around. The Farragut store has great sales and growth and he realized that pulling staff from that store to maintain a non-profitable branch downtown made little sense. He said he was a bit sad about it, but they simply didn’t see enough progress.

For now, there is a prime retail space available for the right business and display cases are inside for anyone who might want to use them.

The Diftler Safe, Rick Terry’s Jewelry Designs, Gay Street, Knoxville, November 2012

In a historical footnote, he’s leaving behind the Diftler (a mentor for Mr. Terry) safe. I wrote of the safe in the first article:

The connection with Mr. Diftler is an important one. Mr. Diftler, a prominent Knoxville jeweler, practiced his art in his store which sat approximately where the Country Music Park sits today. He later moved to Market Street in the Arnstein Building before leaving downtown. His safe, which was purchased in the early 1920s and installed in his Gay Street store, traveled with him to Market Street before being sold to Mr. Terry and taken to Lenoir City. The original safe is now back home, having recently been installed in Mr. Terry’s downtown location.

Mr. Terry felt the safe should remain on Gay Street where it started service a hundred years ago.