They may be one of the few couples who can take claim for births as well as unions in the city of Oakdale. Yet the nature of their chosen career paths, led to exactly that.
Willy and Jim Teter have indirectly been a part of the fabric of many Oakdale lives. Willy, a retired nurse of 47 years with Oak Valley Hospital and Jim, of Teter’s Oakdale Jewelry for the past 34 years.
Together the couple has watched families both start as well as grow, by way of marriages and births. A fact which became apparent to Willy while still working at Oak Valley Hospital. Sharing stories of patients noting that she was on the job for their birth years back as they awaited the birth of their own child.
“We’ve had a lot of young people come in, because their parents brought them in when they were buying jewelry,” Jim said. “They’ve bought rings, wedding sets and things like that.”
Yet 2020 will be the end of an era, as they say, as Jim has made the decision to join his wife in retirement and close the shop.
“My dad opened Teter’s Wardrobe next door to us in 1944,” Jim said of the business’s 114 N. Third Ave., Oakdale location. “We opened our jewelry store here in ‘84. So we’ve been in the jewelry part for 36 years.”
Once the current store closes, it will be the first time in 76 years that the Teter family will no longer occupy a North Third Avenue business storefront in the city.
Originally opened as JR Teter Jewelry, Jim spent his first 10 years in the business working for a Modesto retailer. At the encouragement of a friend/colleague as well as a desire to be his own boss, he opened the business in 1984. At the time his brother maintained Teter’s Wardrobe next door.
“Being in a small business there’s stress even in good times,” Jim said of his 34-year tenure, noting the increase in stress with the COVID inconsistency “and the stress level was just one of those things that she (Willy) finally convinced me, yeah let’s pull the trigger.”
With one year of retirement under her belt, the couple shared it was an idea which wasn’t completely new, yet with the current state of doing business seemed a more timely option.
“Willy has mentioned it for the last year or so after she retired, but she really started pushing it after we reopened after those two and a half months of lockdown,” he said.
The timing of the decision became the next hurdle to consider. After 34 years of business when is the best time to close?
The couple shared initially considering a January closure/going out of business sale and then they changed their minds. In early December they reduced prices and made the announcement.
“If we’re going to give this stuff away let’s let the people get this stuff for Christmas,” Jim said.
While the response of the community has been emotional, it has also been supportive.
“We’ve had people come in and say they just want to buy something because we’re retiring,” he said. “That’s really, really nice.”
“It’s been fantastic,” the jeweler continued. “Put two kids through college and kept Steves Chevrolet in business buying two to three cars a year.”
Noting the support of other local businesses is something the Teter’s shared they have definitely seen change over the course of the years they’ve been in business. Reminiscing on a time when most shopping needs could all be met in the 95361, both growth and internet shopping have unquestionably changed that climate.
“I was raised with my parents always sharing constantly, you scratch the back that scratches yours,” Jim shared. “That’s just the way we were raised. We make our money here, you spend your money here.”
As the couple looks at all that has changed in the city as well as the shopping habits of the clientele, they remain appreciative as well as reflective on the things which worked in their family business. Simple things which will continue to be harder to find such as watch batteries, jewelry and watch repair. Things which kept Jim busy when not selling jewelry and consumers will now have one less ‘brick and mortar’ store to rely on for local purchases and services.
“A lot of our income had to do with jewelry repair. We did a lot of jewelry repair for people,” Jim said.
“The reason we stayed in business is because everyone likes my wife,” he continued, a bit tongue in cheek, “they just put up with me. That’s a valid point.”
While the timing of the closure may not have been initially planned at the start of 2020, Jim Teter looks ahead with little regret and much gratitude.
“We were always just happy to open up our store in the morning,” he genuinely stated. “We always loved opening up our store and coming to work. We’ve just always liked people. We always liked doing good and I’ve always like being self-employed. I make the decisions good or bad and we’re proud of what we do.”
Looking toward retirement during a pandemic could be described as a bit anti-climactic. With their two children now living in San Diego and New York, there are no immediate plans of travel. No “seeing the world” opportunities planned. Currently the focus remains on serving the community and closing the shop on a high note.
“A vacation to me is when someone makes the bed and puts the little mint on your pillow and Willy doesn’t have to do any laundry or cook,” Jim said of traveling with his bride of 47 years. “That was always our vacations.”
Currently the couple plans to maintain their 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. business hours through Christmas Eve and return the following Monday to continue the sale. Their hope is to be able to wrap things up by early January.
As for the community and the continued support, expressing their gratitude to a city which has kept them in business seems to be the toughest part of the recent development.
“I don’t know what the fitting words are,” Jim said in relation to the community. “How do you just say thank you and mean it. Just thank you, thank you, thank you. You supported us and we appreciated your loyalty and putting up with my temperament.
“It’s going to be interesting once I retire. Sincerely thank you, I don’t know how else to say it.”