After planning to close, Starnes Jewelers has been given new life, rebranded as Starnes Bramlett

Published 9:40 am Wednesday, June 8, 2022

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During the preceding weeks after Starnes Jewelers announced it was closing after more than 120 years of serving the community, Chris Bramlett, a certified gemologist appraiser who worked at the store since 1981, realized he was not yet ready to retire and was also not ready to see such a historically significant institution close its doors.

“It became obvious in talking to people throughout the community…that it would not be very good if Albemarle were left without a jeweler the stature and kind that Starnes had been for 124 years,” he said.

So even though his brother-in-law Gene Starnes, who had owned the store since 1976, could no longer operate the business due to a variety of health issues, it was decided between both men that Bramlett would take over as owner and continue running the store, this time under the name Starnes Bramlett. The rebranded business officially reopened last week.

Chris Bramlett is taking over as owner of Starnes Jewelers, which is now Starnes Bramlett.

This is not Bramlett’s first time owning a jewelry store. During a roughly 15-year stint in the 1990s and early 2000s, Bramlett left the Albemarle business to establish his own store in downtown Concord called Christopher’s Jewelers. He served as president and owner until 2004 before closing and coming back to Starnes.

Aside from a few differences, there will be less of an emphasis on gift items and household items for instance — the store is much the same as it’s always been. He said longtime employee Dolores Talbert will become general manager and take on additional responsibilities.

“You could not have a better staff to operate a jewelry store than what we have,” he said. “They knew the people and they know the goods.”

Bramlett said the public reaction to the news that the store, which includes customs from around the country, has been better than he ever could have predicted.

“It’s been incredible,” he said. “I had no idea that it be received like it’s been received. Everywhere I go people search me out and tell me how pleased they are that Starnes Bramlett is here and that we’re going to be the same jewelry store that they have been accustomed to all their lives.”

Bramlett notes that while Gene Starnes was disappointed that circumstances prevented him from continuing the store, he has done everything within his power to ensure the new iteration of the store will be a long-lasting success.

“Gene will not be an owner, but Gene Starnes can never be separated from the jewelry store in downtown Albemarle,” Bramlett said.

Even though he’s 83, Bramlett, who recently served a stint on the Albemarle City Council, said he’s in excellent health and has no plans on retiring anytime soon.

“As long as I’m healthy and can actually come to work in the mornings, I plan to do that,” he said. “If sometime in the future the time comes for me to step aside, I’ll do everything I can to make sure the store continues.”

Starnes Bramlett is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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