When Steve Rambo opened a business Downtown in 1980, his 12-year-old daughter, Shelli, helped out by gift-wrapping jewelry for Christmas. Decades later, the father and daughter are behind the counter again — heading into the holiday season with a liquidation sale.
Rambo plans to close his store on the corner of 9th and Main streets at the end of the year. At age 67, he’s just ready to relax, and makes a point of saying that the store isn’t closing because of economy-related troubles.
This year was actually kind to the store, he said. Like other luxury goods businesses, it was one of the first to feel the pain of the recession. This year “felt like it was coming back,” Rambo said. “But the main thing is, you’ve got to retire sometime.”
Rambo is looking forward to waking up in the morning with a blank schedule. He and his wife, Shelley, like to camp, fish and take a boat out on the Salmon River. Now they’ll have more time to do that, even though Shelley, who appraises jewelry, will continue in that line of work.
Still, Rambo said he will miss all of the store’s customers. He can’t even remember how many engagement rings and wedding rings he’s sold to couples whose children later came in to buy rings. He’s pretty sure — but not positive — that he hasn’t sold to a third generation yet.
Rambo gives a lot of credit for his career to Jake Molenaar, who founded Molenaar Jewelers in 1941. Instead of squelching competition, Molenaar launched partnerships with ambitious salesmen, helping many present-day Boise jewelers open their own stores.
“He was instrumental in all these stores. He’s the guy who put the money up,” Rambo said.
After spending nearly half a century in the jewelry business, Rambo has noticed a shift in how people shop. And it’s not just the move to buying online and the attendant loss of loyalty to the store down the street.
Rambo said one of the joys of his job is teaching customers about their purchases — not just selling them a shiny object.
Since he comes to the jewelry counter with decades of experience, it has disappointed him in recent years when young shoppers walk in after reading the Internet for an hour, educated by a wealth of misinformation and fixated on getting the lowest price.
“It’s amazing to me,” he said.
But many customers have put their trust in his store for years, and Rambo said he is trying to find a way to notify all those customers and refer them to other shops.
As the holidays approach, Rambo is fully staffing the store, more than the usual five people. One of the temporary staff members is Shelli Rambo Roberson, now 45 years old.
“I’m excited for my dad to retire, but this has just been an icon for Boise,” she said. “You’d have whole families come in, and 20 years later, you’d see that person who got married bring their child in to buy a graduation ring.”
Rambo Roberson’s father wasn’t just Steve Rambo — he was Steve Rambo Jewelers, she said.
“This is the person you trusted with something very precious,” she said. “It’s going to be a real adjustment for him and for Downtown.”
Audrey Dutton: 377-6448, Twitter: @IDS_Audrey