Bonded Jewelry Center, one of the leading jewelers in the metro area and a fixture in the Pikesville shopping district, is going out of business.
Jack Brown, the principal owner, said in a prepared statement dated Monday that a bank was calling in a loan and that he was closing his stores -- one in the 1500 block of Reisterstown Road and the other in Boca Raton, Fla. His father, Milton Brown, founded the business in 1920 on Eutaw Street, near the Hippodrome Theater.
"In good times we could see over 300 customers come into the store on a given Saturday," Brown said in his statement. "However, times have not been good lately, and we have incurred substantial operating losses, causing our bank to call our loan. Therefore, we must liquidate our entire inventory and go out of business."
Earlier last month, Brown denied rumors of an imminent closing. In an interview Dec. 19, he said the bank had called the loan, but that he would be able to pay it off.
Brown was unavailable for comment yesterday as customers crowded the Pikesville store to take advantage of the first day of the going-out-of-business sale. Store employees said he was in Boca Raton. But an employee answering the phone at the store there said Brown was driving back to Baltimore and that business was too hectic for further discussion.
Pikesville employees said the store could stay open as late as March 1, but that plans were fluid.
Baltimore County Circuit Court records showed that the state filed a tax lien against Brown and his business on Dec. 11, seeking to collect $8,536.90.
The Bonded store windows and its interior were bedecked with signs proclaiming the fate of the business. "Selling to the bare walls," one of them said.
Some customers were saddened at the passing of a store that they patronized for its reasonable prices and personal attention.
Joan Smith, of northwest Baltimore County, bought a strand of pearls and some earrings yesterday and wondered where she would go to buy jewelry once Bonded closes.
"The man who was helping us said they were all just devastated," she said.
Smith has been buying from Bonded for 20 years, since her in-laws took her there to pick out a wedding band and reset her engagement ring.
Lee Sherman, who drove in from Bel Air yesterday to pick up a watch that was being repaired, was shocked to learn that the company was going out of business. He vowed to return within a day with his wife "and get a ring before it's too late."
The demise of Bonded comes about a year after the closing of nearby Shapiro's, a kosher supermarket that had helped to anchor Pikesville commerce since 1964. A Staples office supply store now occupies the old Shapiro's building.
Evelyn Burns, director of the Pikesville Community Growth Corporation, a local business group, said Bonded has been "a cornerstone of Pikesville, as Shapiro's was," but she added that there are fewer storefront vacancies than a year ago and several projects are in the works.
"We're holding our own," she said.