Garris Jewelers relocates store

-A A +A
By Michele Roberts

Garris Jewelers, a true example of a hometown business, has moved to a new location in Lancaster Square.

Now at 965 N. Main St., Garris Jewelers occupies the space that formerly housed Friedman's Jewelers.

Jerry Garris, former owner of the business and now a consultant since retiring in 2005, said the decision to move was based on location, traffic and the way public trends have changed.

"We want to be as convenient and accessible as possible to our customers," he said. "This location in Lancaster Square is a more-trafficked area now than where we were before."

The business, now owned by Garris' wife, Mary, has a long history of offering quality jewelry that began in 1904.

It started as a business venture by two men, Mr. Lathan and Mr. Robinson, who operated the store together for roughly 18 months.

When Lathan decided that the business was not for him, Robinson became sole owner, and in 1906 the name became D.L. Robinson Jewelers.

The business stayed in the Robinson family until 1967, when it was bought by John W. Darden of Conway.

In 1973, Garris said, John Darden III approached him and offered him the job of store manager.

"At the time I was working as a photographer for Lavoy Studios here in Lancaster," he said. "I agreed to take the job, but on the condition that on nights and weekends, I would be allowed to continue working at the studio, no questions asked. And they said OK."

Garris was manager of the store until 1980, when a situation arose within the Darden family that necessitated the sale of the store.

"It was either buy the store or find another job," he said. "Thanks to Jim Cherry, who was then vice president of the Bank of Lancaster, we were able to buy it. That makes us only the third family to own the business and we are proud to say that it has operated continuously since it first began in 1904."

Garris said the store still buys jewelry from some of the same companies that the Robinson family dealt with in the 1950s and offers a wide selection of rings, pendants, chains, earrings, watches and custom-designed jewelry.

Garris' son, Larry, joined the business in 1985. He does all the repair work for the store.

Larry Garris has also earned the title of master craftsman jeweler and doctor of jewelry art.

"That means he can design, make and set stones in a piece of jewelry, going from the raw gold to the finished product," Jerry Garris said.

There's a good feeling that comes from having had a business in the community so long, Jerry Garris said.

"I see young people coming in looking at engagement rings or birthstone rings, and I can remember selling the same type of rings to their parents," he said.

"A member of the Robinson family that's still here said this is probably the oldest family-owned business in Lancaster. We take pride in that," Jerry Garris said.