Over the years, my parents patronized Beckners’ Jewelers in downtown Johnson City, so I suppose it was only natural for me to buy my wife’s engagement and wedding rings from Buddy Beckner in 1970.
A 1927 Johnson City Chronicle article gave the history of this now defunct business, reading almost like an advertisement. The clipping’s title was “Jewelry Story Established in 1886, Still Going Strong and Now One of Leading Emporiums of the Section.” Mr. I.N. Beckner opened “The Red Front Jewelry Store” in the small village of Johnson City in 1886; it remained in operation for nearly a century. The location was said to be near what is now Fountain Square, which at that time was occupied partially by the railroad station and the jeweler. Beckner occupied a small section of a building used as a livery stable.”
Some old city directories show that the company was initially located at 202 E. Main, future site of the Hamilton National Bank building, and later moved east to 232 E. Main, where it remained until its closing. According to a 1913 city business brochure: “This business has been successfully established for 27 years, surely long enough for everyone to know the absolute trustworthiness of the house. The public has always taken a kindly interest in this good old house.”
A 1915 Chamber of Commerce book further stated: “The stock carried (in the store) consists of the best selections of watches of all makes, sterling and plated silver, fashionable jewelry and other goods usually found in high class enterprises of the character. They do fine repairing and engraving and are the time inspectors for the Southern and CC&O railroads.”
The Chronicle article went on to say that T.F. Beckner, eldest son of I.N., grew up in his father’s business doing minor work and soon became proficient in all departments. Over time, the Main Street business bore three similar designations: I.N. Beckner Jewelers, I.N. Beckner and Son Jewelers, I.N Becker’s Son Jewelers and lastly, Beckners’ Jewelers. James Beckner, another son, joined his brother in 1919, becoming a partner and actively engaged in its operation. The article mentioned C.C. Mullins and Delno E. Diddle, Jr., two store employees from that era.
Upon the senior Beckner’s retirement, the business was assumed by T.F., who continued it using the name of I.N. Beckner’s Son. The senior Beckner remained associated with the store until his death about 1926.
The store’s ideal location in the heart of the retail business center made it a convenient place for shoppers. It became known for its elaborate and eye-appealing window displays that attracted many patrons. The store carried the famous old line of Seth Thomas clocks and had two models in the store that were over 100 years old and still running, confirming the longevity of the product. Hamilton, Gruen and Elgin watches were also featured brands, as well as many other nationally known makes of jewelry, cut glass and similar lines.
An ad from 1936 says “A Best Seller – The Hamilton Dixon – 17 jewel Hamilton accuracy and dependability in a case of 10K filled gold for only $37.50. No wonder the Dixon is a best seller.”
Beckners’ Jewelers closed its store in late 1985 when the owners, who were approaching retirement age, decided to call it quits. The decline of the downtown area and an uncertain business climate were dominating factors in their likely painful decision.
Ironically, the store’s demise was just months shy of its 100thbirthday.