South Boston, VA - A South Boston man is closing the doors on the jewelry store he has worked at since 1946.
Levi Hamilton started as an employee at Hodges Jewel Box. Now he owns it, but the economic downturn really hurt his business and he says now it's time to move on.
The store had become a staple among the businesses on Main Street and Hamilton is the first black business owner in downtown South Boston.
Customers say this closing for them, is bittersweet.
Carlyle Wimbish first visited Hodges Jewel Box more than 50 years ago.
"I bought my first watch in 1959 and he's been working on my watches ever since, " Wimbish said.
Hamilton began working at the store as a high school student.
"I was a handy fellow. They called it a porter at that time, " Hamilton said.
He had been promoted to manager in the late '70's when owner Joe Hodges passed away.
"We were just like family, " he said.
Hodges's wife sold the business to Hamilton, but despite the new ownership, Hamilton never changed the name of the store.
"The name meant something and I knew it meant something. We had set a pattern of treating people fairly and squarely, " said Hamilton.
He also declined a big ceremony to celebrate.
He feared that people wouldn't shop there anymore if they knew the owner was black, but his quality service kept customers coming back and made him popular among the business owners.
"He's been a great asset to downtown South Boston and a wonderful person, and we're going to miss him, " said the owner of Lantor's on Main Street.
Now Hamilton is closing the lid on the Jewel Box. He says a poor economy and competition from big box stores have hurt his sales too much.
Carlyle Wimbish is sad to see him go, but he'll share a few more laughs with his old friend as he repairs his watch one last time.
He says he plans to spend his retirement visiting with his children and grandchildren.