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Family owned Jewelry Store closing in FWB


After 67 years, a family-owned business in Fort Walton Beach is closing.

Channel Three's Laura Hussey shows us how Vandegriff Jewelers started out and what they'll leave behind.

A treasured piece of jewelry isn't just a decoration, it becomes a part of your life. It might even be passed on when you go. In much the same way, Vandegriff Jewelers has been part of this community for generations.
    It started in 1947.

Harry and Margaret Vandegriff couldn't even afford a business license when they opened their fifty-by-twenty foot store in downtown Fort Walton Beach.

Pat Balanzategui said, "I remember taking a bath in the sink in the back, I remember sleeping on a cot, when it was time to really be in bed at home, but they had to keep working" 

Pat Balanzategui and her husband Bal took over in 1990, after careers outside the jewelry business.

The store is packed with customers shopping their going out of business sale.
 Wayne Hostilo said, "I'm happy for them, but sad for.....Anytime there's an old business that goes by the wayside, it just makes you a little more nostalgic I guess"

No employee has been here less than fourteen years.

Customers have children who become customers, sharing the happiest moments of their lives.

Bal Balanzategui said, "So many people....you go to a car dealer, and they're mad at each other about something. You go anyplace else and they're....but nobody comes in and sits down and talks about jewelry....mad"

The store has survived economic ups and downs; the worst after hurricane Opal.

The Balanzateguis say they're ready to retire now, though it's bittersweet to leave their customers.

Pat "I really cared about them and I tried to do the best that I could, which I think is exactly what my parents did"

There's no specific end date for the sale. Once they hit a sales target, they're closing the doors forever.