Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct the spelling of the Carl and Becky Saenger’s last name.
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — It’s been a good run, to say the least. Now, American Jewelry Company, in business since 1898, is finally calling it quits. But the local company, closing after 124 years, is not going quietly into the night.
Owners Carl and Becky Saenger bought the business from her father in 1988 and for the past 20 of those years they’ve been in this highly visible, unique location – atop the Oak Park Tower, fifth floor, at 21st and Oak streets.
“Can you imagine a nicer place to work?” Carl Saenger told Tuesday, looking down onto 24th Street. “It’s been wonderful for us.”
The Saengers are retiring, liquidating their stock, and walking away sometime in January. Tuesday was the first day of a four-day liquidation sale. They might have sold to new owners – but they won’t.
“Because we wanted to make sure the name of the store, and our name, went out in a good way rather than selling to somebody else and having that name tarnished in some way,” Carl Saenger said, “so I think it’s better in our time frame, my wife and I.”
The place was swarmed from the moment the doors opened Tuesday morning – swarmed with shoppers who seemed as interested in thanking the Sangers for their years of service as they were the deals. Kristin Dobbs was one of them.
“They’re just so personalized and so friendly and just so accommodating,” she said. “I originally came here when I got married and they just helped me find everything. … They’re just really great people.”
Many merchants find themselves in tough situations because of competition from chain stores, but Carl Saenger says they carved out an identity based on multigenerational relationships with families. And Tuesday was a family reunion of sorts – no doubt the first of several to come over the next 10 weeks or so.
On Tuesday the store might have looked like Walmart on a Saturday morning – unusual for a jeweler – but it is a local institution, and that makes the situation different.