Shortly after Christmas the Karat Kase Jewelry and Fine Gifts will be shutting its doors for good.
After 35 years as a jeweler, Al Cox, is retiring and moving onto the next phase of life. He has not really decided what that phase will be but the one thing he is sure about is he will be able to take a few days off.
When asked what he likes best about retiring, he said, “Not having to come to the office every day. My customers are very special to me, and I will miss them, but I am looking forward to being home a little.”
Cox began his career making rings as a hobby. “I was buying gold and silver and thought I might be able to make something with it.” He found he had a talent for making unique pieces that have been purchased and taken from Grayson County to as many as 18 different states throughout the years.
In June of 1982, an article was printed in the Grayson County News-Gazette describing how curiosity turned to a hobby. Little did the reporter who wrote the original article, nor Cox, know that hobby would turn into a 35-year career that has supported his family. See our Wednesday, Dec. 23 edition for the original article.
“I never went to school for this or had any formal training. I just went to the library and read lots of books,” said Cox. “I really liked making rings and it was not long before I was ready to open my own store.”
After a year of perfecting his craft, Cox started merchandising jewelry in a small store on North Main Street. “I was working full time as a Quality Control Analyst for the Bureau of Social Insurance at the time and wanted to take a leave of absence between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays and was denied. It was my intention to open the store full time in April of the next year but when they denied my request I turned in my two-week’s notice.” The rest, as they say, is history!
The business continued to grow and expand for the next 12 years, and Cox found he needed a bigger store. He began selling crystal, clocks and china and soon moved the store to its current location. He continued to cast and make unique rings for his customers over the years.
Cox prides himself on the individual pieces he has made for people over the years and the service he has been able to offer his customers and repeatedly said how he was going to miss his customers.
“I made a lot of jewelry for my customers using stones and gold that had belonged to grandmas, mothers, and other family members that had passed on,” said Cox. “One customer from Florida, who had been shopping in Houchens, saw a ring I made and came in. She became a devoted customer for years.”
Over the years Cox has not only employed family members but several local individuals, and some have gone on to become doctors, lawyers, nurses and beauticians. His part-time Christmas positions have helped make the holiday a little brighter for many individual families.
Debbie Embry has worked at the Karat Kase for several holiday seasons over the years and talks fondly of her memories of Cox and the customers.
“There have been many customers that have called Al at the last minute and asked him to pick something out for their wife, wrap it and have it ready so he can swing by on his way home from work. Some have no idea what is in the package until their wife opens it up Christmas morning.”
Cox’s wife, Jackie, has been with him through the whole adventure. “I usually sit right here in this chair and do whatever I can to help out.” She talks with pride when she tells how he was offered the opportunity to move his store to bigger markets, like the Opry Land or Bowling Green.
“We chose to stay right here in Grayson County,” said Jackie. “We raised our daughter here. She worked here for over 20 years along with both our grandchildren. But the opportunity for the move was always there.”
Cox says serving the community of Grayson County has been a wonderful adventure, and he appreciates the opportunities that have been offered him.
“We started this business on a shoe-string budget with two small showcases and not much merchandise that first Christmas and this business has grown to support our family. It has been a good ride.”
Reach Theresa Armstrong at 270-259-9622, ext. 2011.