New location, award for local jeweler

BREMEN — For Plaza Jewelers owner/operator Angie Thornton, a change of venue was needed.
The decision to move from the store's previous location in the plaza by H & R Block to the new one at 1311 W. Plymouth St. was two-fold.
“We'd prefer to own rather than rent,” Thornton said. “Plus it fixed up an eyesore in town and we should have better visibility.”
The redone storefront is a far cry from its previous state as a dilapidated former laundromat.
“I don't know how long it had been since anyone had used it, but it had been a few years and it was pretty run down,” Thornton said. “We took care of the outside first and then the inside.”
As for the interior, Thornton said husband Heath stripped it down to bare concrete before Coffel Construction crafted its current slick appearance for the grand opening Nov. 1.
“We took a year to make sure it was how I wanted it in here,” Thornton said. “We wanted a warm, homy feeling when people walk in the door. It's all new, from the electrical on up. We shut down the other store at noon on a Saturday and opened it at 9 a.m. the next Monday.”
For its efforts, the Thorntons were recently bestowed the Pride of Bremen Award in recognition of the improvements.
“We are proud of the new building, and while we did leave a building empty, it is a good one and will suit a new renter very easily,” Thornton said.
Plaza Jewelers — which Thornton said is believed to be the oldest operating jewelry store in Marshall County — has been open since 1969. The shift to a new location isn't the only change for Thornton, who has upped her repair skills.
“I have learned to do more bench work to do more repairs here,” Thornton said. “The more complicated repairs will still get sent to the gentleman I use, but it's a new service that hasn't been offered here before.”
Shoppers aren't limited to the items in the store.
“Inventory-wise, we can get anything out there,” Thornton said. “It doesn't matter what it is, we can get it.
“We're also trying to bring in more giftware so people don't have to drive to Mishawaka or South Bend. We're working on expanding that right now.”
The Thorntons, who are Plaza Jewelers' third owners, took over the business five years ago. Like most industries, including Heath's Wholesale Express automotive business in Osceola, the last few years have been a challenge.
“It might not have been the best time to venture into the industry, because the economy went down right after,” Thornton said. “We're making sure it holds its own until the economy recovers. It'll turn around and hopefully sales will go back to where they were.”
Passers-by currently see a short-term yellow sign out front, which will soon change.
“It isn't my choice, but it is working for the month,” Thornton said of the current sign. “We'll get the new one out there and it will make a difference, too.”