After 30 years in the antique jewelry business, sisters Carol and Linda Himel are closing their Classic Jewelers store in the Bocage Village shopping center.
The sisters, who frequently finish each other's sentences, said they made the decision to close their business on Aug. 30 because they are entering new chapters in their lives.
“I’m retiring; Carol got a divorce,” Linda Himel said. “After 30 years, I want to do things like travel more.”
When the Himels started their jewelry business, they were both working as nurses at the recovery unit at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center. For fun, Linda Himel took a class at LSU on jewelry design and construction. She enjoyed it so much, she started dabbling and playing with jewelry making.
“Then one day we said, ‘Let’s start a business together,’ ” Carol Himel said.
“We were dreaming, and we said starting a jewelry business would be fun,” Linda Himel said. And while both women liked being nurses, they said it was appealing to have a job where people didn’t occasionally die.
While they were thinking about starting a business, Linda Himel was on vacation in Miami and happened to see some antique jewelry in a store. “We said, ‘Hey let’s get some of that,’ ” she said.
For the first two years they were in business, the sisters sold antique jewelry at shows and in locations like the Country Club of Louisiana. They realized they had an eye for picking up jewelry from the Victorian, Edwardian and art deco eras.
“Evidently, we were really good buyers,” Carol Himel said. Both women immersed themselves in the business, checking out every book about jewelry at the East Baton Rouge Parish Library. “There was so much to learn,” she said.
They also had to learn about how to actually run a business. “Linda had to learn how to do payroll taxes by hand because this was before QuickBooks,” Carol Himel said. “The thing about starting a business is, you don’t know what you don’t know.”
Around 1990, the sisters opened their first jewelry store, appropriately enough in the medical plaza at Our Lady of the Lake. Two years later, they opened the store in Bocage Village.
“We feel blessed to be able to enjoy the business for this long,” Linda Himel said. Despite the stress of running a small business together, the sisters say they have almost always gotten along.
“We both bring certain things to the table,” Linda Himel said. “Carol is very personable and people-oriented, and I remember numbers like there is no tomorrow.”
When the sisters felt it was time to retire, they decided to close Classic Jewelers rather than sell the business, so they could have a liquidation sale for their longtime customers.
“We didn’t want to sell, this is our business,” Linda Himel said.
Ever since the sisters announced they were selling Classic Jewelers, longtime customers have been stopping by to pick up items. “It’s been like Christmas to see all these people,” Linda Himel said.