JONESBORO – George Surbaugh started repairing watches as a hobby in the 1950s.
“I tore up an old watch and started winding it,” Surbaugh said on Friday. “Then I went to watch repair school in Memphis. He also took classes in Little Rock and Dallas.
“I had a place at home when I started,” Surbaugh continued.
It became a full time business, and in 1960 George’s Watch Shop became George’s Jewelry.
Now, at 88, Surbaugh is preparing to shut down in January, after one final Christmas season.
At one point, George and his wife Patsy Surbaugh had four stores in the area. She operated a clothing store and he had two jewelry stores in Jonesboro and one in Trumann.
The last of their businesses, at 4921 E. Nettleton Ave., is where Surbaugh opened his original watch store.
Surbaugh said her favorite part of the business was making and repairing jewelry.
Daughters Marsha LeQueux and Lori Kitchens said they grew up in their parents’ businesses – Marsha working with her mother in the clothing store – and Lori with her father in the jewelry store.
Kitchens was inspired by her father to become a certified gemologist and still works in the industry.
Although the daughters now live in North Carolina, they have returned to help their father in the final weeks of the business.
“It’s like a reunion for us,” LeQueux said of the response the sisters got when they posted the news on social media. “Because people come to the store, and it’s like going back to basics. We can see some of our classmates, our grade school friends, our longtime neighbors.
Some of the responses LeQueux received to his social media post included that from a parent.
“I remember when Uncle George repaired watches as a hobby,” wrote Larry Hisky. “He made this hobby the American dream and should be a source of inspiration for young entrepreneurs!
Paula Boden Carter wrote: “Your father is a ‘celebrity’ in these areas and he will be sorely missed!
From Janie and Butch Yielding: “Marsha, oh my gosh, it’s hard to imagine he’s not in her jewelry store anymore. He is such a kind and gentle man. I hope his retirement will be all it can be for him and more.
Malcolm Miles said, “He’s a Jonesboro icon! Sad to see him go but certainly understand! I wish him a good retirement.
The sisters also met new clients.
“We had someone come over the other day, she said, ‘I need a diamond for my tooth,’” Kitchens said. “She was from Sweden and she actually had a little hole in her tooth that her dentist drilled and she had a diamond in it for 30 years, but it fell out. So we sold her a diamond, and she’s got a dentist in Memphis going to put it on.
George’s closure also means the retirement of Brenda Leonard who helped run the store for 50 years.