CORRECTION: McNelis & Sherry is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday for its going-out-of-business sale.
For 30 years, Judi McNelis has been a part of some of the most important events in her customer’s lives: weddings, anniversaries, birthdays.
But despite her flock of loyal customers, McNelis, owner of McNelis & Sherry Fine Jewelers on Kings Highway, is about to close her business—one of five jewelry stores to close up shop in Haddonfield over the last 18 months, and, according to McNelis, the last family-owned jewelry store in town.
The reason for the closure is simple, McNelis explained: not enough business.
“There’s just not enough traffic,” she said, noting that it’s been that way for the last few years. She attributed the downturn in business to the overall downturn in the economy, which has perhaps caused consumers to cut back on goods like jewelry.
McNelis and her late husband, Jack, who died three years ago, opened the store almost exactly 30 years ago—the business celebrated its 30th anniversary earlier this month—after spending several years working the counter at other people’s stores.
“We had worked for other fine jewelers, and we wanted to have something of our own,” she said.
At first, McNelis & Sherry set itself apart by offering name-brand jewelry, which many of their competitors weren’t doing at the time.
“We like to say we bridged the gap between fashion and fine jewelry,” said McNelis. "When my husband and I started the shop, he told me that now I needed to wear important jewelry but to always remember that we are a small-town shop. We must always strive for the very best in quality, design and style, and that is what our customers expect."
Within a year of opening, the store moved from the rear of 116 Kings Highway East to the front, and its many loyal customers kept the business going strong for nearly three decades. Sadly, market forces have finally caught up with the hometown business.
“They’re very upset,” McNelis said of her customers reaction to the closing. “And I wish we didn’t have to. We really are their jewelry store.”
She added, “It’s been very rewarding, because we’re usually a part of customers’ happy celebrations.”
She recalled one young man who came in and asked if she could show him some diamond engagement rings because he was getting ready to propose, “and when he did, he realized the commitment he was getting ready to make,” McNelis said.
“(Later) he told me that I’m responsible for him being married and having a family.”
The McNelises are also known for their contributions to mental health in the area.
McNelis hopes to reopen somewhere else, preferably in Haddonfield, but said she hasn’t made a decision yet about the future of the business.
The store is holding a going-out-of-business sale, with some items up to 80 percent off, in an attempt to sell off its inventory. McNelis couldn’t provide an exact date for the closing, but said, “It won’t be long.”
“I hope my customers come in in the next week or so and see me.”McNelis & Sherry Fine Jewelers (856-354-0083) is located at 116 Kings Highway East (The Shops at 116). The store is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 12-4:30 p.m. Sunday.