RINCON – Caroline Ziegler has been in tears for weeks. But they’re happy tears, full of memories and love for the community she calls home.
Ziegler and her husband, Allen, started “Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe,” later called Curiosity Shoppe Jewelers, in 1970.
“We were in Michigan, Allen and I, and we looked at ways that we could come home. This was home,” she said. The couple had been transferred numerous times with Allen’s job with a large corporation.
Allen did a little research at the courthouse, she said, looking to find out how many weddings were performed each month in the community.
“And so, we came home with this in mind, from Michigan. That’s how the idea formulated to offer bridal services to the community,” she said, adding that the original plan also included Allen joining her at their business venture after a year.
“Which never happened,” she said, laughing.
The shop originally opened in the garage of the Zieglers’ home, and later moved to its current location, 210 N. Columbia Avenue in Rincon. Forty-seven years later, with no one to take the reins, Ziegler will be closing the doors and retiring.
Doing so is bittersweet, she says.
“People have called and said, ‘You did my class ring, you did my graduation invitations, you helped my child go to the prom, and then you helped us get married.’ By the time they finished, I’m weeping in the middle of the store. It’s been an emotional ride,” she said.
Ziegler says the time has certainly flown by, and in the many years she’s been in business, she’s seen a lot, including construction, roads being widened and big box stores coming to town, which meant she had to regroup and rethink how she did business.
“I had to rethink my inventory quickly at that point,” she said. When the big box stores came to town, she added tuxedo rentals, as well as baby and bridal registers.
“They didn’t offer that,” she said.
Tuxedo rentals have, in particular, been an indicator of the changing times.
“We’ve seen it go from white bell bottom pants, all white suits, from ruffles with black on the edge of the ruffles, to blue coats with black trim, to now beige, and everything in between. Oh, my goodness,” she said, laughing.
Ziegler said she spent a lot of time back in the day scrubbing the red clay off those white bell bottoms when they were returned to the store.
“It seemed like nobody cleaned them,” she said. “I wanted those boys to look like my boys when they went to prom.”
Prom season has been very stressful for Ziegler over the years, but she has enjoyed it tremendously, saying that the two proms in the county each year is like “getting my daughter married every year, two times.”
“But I treated them like a grandma,” she said, smiling.
Since her husband’s passing five years ago, Ziegler said the running of the store has been more stressful, because she’s had to take on some of the “dirty work” her husband used to handle. She had hoped that one of her children or grandchildren would take over when she decided to retire.
“But the closer I got, the reality of how tied down they would be, and they have children in sports. I think the reality of how confining it is, did a check on it. Right up until the end, I kind of thought one of them would take over,” she said.
She recalled that she’s had a “long string of young people who have helped me through the years,” referring to the young ladies who have worked part-time in her shop. Some of those worked their way through college, and Ziegler said she thinks of some of them as daughters.
Ziegler said it will be with a heavy heart she will close the doors the final time, but she doesn’t have any “mammoth plans.”
“I’m going home,” she said, laughing. She plans to “clean out” her home, work in her yard, cook and enjoy her six grandchildren, who all live locally.
The store will be open a few more weeks, but no official final date has been announced.
Ziegler says it “wouldn’t be right if I didn’t thank the community, because I’ve shared with all of them their life experiences.” Wiping tears from her eyes, Ziegler said with a broken voice that she will take the kindness of the people and the friendships with her.
“It’s been a long ride and it’s been fun,” she said. “I appreciate their support throughout these 47 years. I wouldn’t have made it without the community. And the fact that I’ve shared so many of their special occasions. It’s been a blessing to me.”