Business

Marshalls Jewelers is closing after 129 years in SLO — and four owners

Marshall’s Jewelers on Higuera Street in downtown San Luis Obispo.
Marshall’s Jewelers on Higuera Street in downtown San Luis Obispo. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Marshalls Jewelers is closing after 129 years in San Luis Obispo.

The store, which specializes in custom designs and manufactured jewelry featuring platinum, gold, cut diamonds and fine gemstones, will remain open into January.

Marshalls Jewelers, located at 751 Higuera St. in downtown San Luis Obispo, will hold a liquidation sale through Dec. 29.

Owner Jeff McKeegan said the store, which will celebrate its 130th Christmas come Dec. 25, is doing well financially and could remain open. However, he and his husband, Steven deLuque, plan to retire and feel it’s the right time to close up shop, McKeegan said Thursday in a phone interview.

“Business is good and the economy is decent right now,” McKeegan said. “But it’s no surprise a recession is likely coming within the next few years. We don’t want to wait too long or be in the middle of a recession when we are desperate to get out.”

McKeegan, who said he’s nearly 65, and deLuque want to travel and maybe live in another country.

McKeegan said he thought about selling Marshalls Jewellers, but he doesn’t own the building where the store operates. Rent pricing hasn’t been a problem, he added

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Jeff McKeegan is the owner of Marshalls Jewelers. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

The building is owned by the estate of Clifford Chapman, McKeegan’s former boss, mentor and business operator.

McKeegan, who started working at Marshalls Jewelers in 1981 and purchased the store in 1993, said he felt it was best to liquidate merchandise rather than to sell.

“I didn’t want to be the last one to shut the business,” McKeegan said. “That was tough, but at the same time we are ready for it.”

McKeegan is the fourth owner in the history of Marshalls Jewelers, which original owner Manuel Marshall opened in 1889. His son, Art Marshall, owned the business before selling it to Chapman, Art Marshall’s cousin.

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Marshall’s Jewelers in San Luis Obispo in the late 19th century. Manuel Marshall on the left and Mr. Oppliger on the right. Courtesy photo

“People often ask if the store stayed in the family,” McKeegan said. “I say, ‘It may not be blood, but it is family.’ I worked with Clifford for my first 12 years here, and he was a mentor and friend right up until the day he died.”

McKeegan said he’s seen economic spikes and crashes over the years. The 2008 recession hit the business hard, but it rebounded, McKeegan told The Tribune in a 2014 article on the store’s 125th anniversary.

“During hard times, jewelry is usually the first to go and the last to come back but when people are going to spend a thousand dollars on something, they want it to be unique and special to them,” McKeegan said then.

McKeegan said he is proud to have served “multiple generations of the same families; personally as many as four generations as an employee then owner. The joy of my time here has always been the people we have gotten to know.”

McKeegan said he’s learned that “people come before things” in the jewelry business.

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Marshall’s Jewelers in downtown San Luis Obispo. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

He added that he’s striven to treat everyone well, he said, regardless of background.

“Sometime a homeless person wanders in and I learned that if they weren’t causing a disturbance, why not let them look around?” McKeegan said. “Why not give them pleasure for 10 minutes during a tough life? What I’ve learned in this business is how to work with people.”

Marshall Jewelers is the second San Luis Obispo jewelry store in recent months to announce it’s closing. Kevin Main Jewelry Design & Studio said in November that it was shutting its doors.

Marshall Jewelers’ final days will include a sale of items up to 70 percent off. The store sells rings, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, watches and more.

For more information, call 805-543-3431 or go to Marshalls1889.com.

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Nick Wilson covers the city of San Luis Obispo and has been a reporter at The Tribune in San Luis Obispo since 2004. He also writes regularly about K-12 education, Cal Poly, Morro Bay and Los Osos. He is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkeley and is originally from Ojai.
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