Lincoln’s shifting landscape: 55-year-old jewelry store one of many recent, pending closures

Posted July 24, 2009, at 8:22 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:15 p.m.

LINCOLN, Maine — For almost 55 years, anyone in the Lincoln Lakes region who wanted to offer a thoughtful thank-you, spur a courtship into romance, declare love unto death — or who had some serious making up to do — could count J.K. Vose Fine Jewelers as an option.

That will end on or about Aug. 15, the target date for owner Kathryn Vose Wilson to close her store doors one final time, she said.

“I myself have been here for 30 years,” Wilson, 50, said Wednesday of the store, which she took over for her father, founder James A. Vose, one of the state’s first licensed gemologists. He opened the store in 1955 and, at age 82, still comes in to work on occasion.

“I had decided when I was 46 that by the time I was 50 I would move on,” Wilson added. “I have been living a retail life for long enough. I am just tired of working six or seven days a week. My whole life revolves around Christmas and Valentine’s Day and all the other holidays.”

The closure, town Economic Development Assistant Ruth Birtz said, is among several that reflect the recession or the changing face of Lincoln.

A scan of real estate listings within the last three weeks showed 21 buildings on Main Street, West Broadway, Airport Road and River Road, the heart of the town’s business district, listed for sale at prices ranging from $75,000 to $640,000.

Of the 21, four are listed as residential properties. The businesses include a chiropractor, former bank, former hardware store, an auto repairs establishment and a motel. The listings did not indicate whether the businesses had closed or were relocating. A count of all properties along those roads was not available.

“This is a difficult time for everybody,” Birtz said. “In this area, you are seeing a high unemployment rate, the forest products industry is suffering, and people are being conservative with their money.”

Lincoln’s unemployment rate in April was 14.8 percent, double the 7.4 percent rate found in April 2008, according to statistics released by the Maine Department of Labor.

Yet it would be a mistake to see all recent real estate activity in town as indicative of the recession, Birtz said.

Lincoln has an unusually active real estate market for an area with a small population, and several large-scale construction projects are pending, she noted. The recent opening of Health Access Networks’ $5.4 million office at 175 West Broadway forced the closure of several smaller doctor’s offices around town.

Wilson had wanted to sell the store to keep the business going, but found no adequate takers. She still hopes to sell it, she said.

J.K. Vose’s looming closure struck Chrystal Tash, 29, of Lowell as sad.

“This place has been around forever,” Tash said as she shopped at the store Wednesday. “I have been coming here for as long as I can remember. It won’t be the same in Lincoln without it.”

Donald Collins also was shopping at J.K. Vose’s on Wednesday. A carpet installer for The Home Depot in Bangor, Collins bought a large fake pineapple with American flags ringing it as a joke gift for his 15-year-old niece, Elizabeth Collins, who will visit next month.

“She really likes SpongeBob SquarePants, so I can tell her that this is a SpongeBob SquarePants Fourth of July,” he said.

J.K. Vose’s many customers have been taking the store’s closure emotionally, as has Wilson, although she announced in December that she was working her last Christmas at the store.

“I guess it’s the finality of it,” Wilson said. “Some people have been saying that we are an institution. I guess we are.”

No store business or orders will be left unfinished, she said.

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