Spharler’s Jewelry, a downtown Pine Bluff fixture for 75 years, is officially closing its doors as of the end of 2011.
The store’s longtime proprietor, Clarence Ross “Sonny” Spharler Jr., 81, became ill in February and the decision was reluctantly made to bring an end to a one-man jewelry- and watch- repair operation renowned throughout the area for exacting professional service and old-fashioned personalized customer attention.
“Sonny has done so much for this community,” said his sister Jo Ann Bussey. “He always wore a suit and tie to work just like our father did before him. Even after he got sick and then began his rehabilitation, I would come by to take him to lunch and he would come out dressed in one of his suits.”
Bussey wanted to make sure that everybody who came to know her brother over the years knew how much they meant to him and how much he appreciates their business and friendship over the many years that he worked at 115 E. Fourth Ave. across from the train station.
“We just want everybody to know that he is closing and how grateful we are for the people that came to do business with Sonny from here in town and all over,” Bussey said.
Bussey recounted that back when the train station still provided passenger service, the shop would frequently have customers who came through by rail and dropped off watches and jewelry to be repaired that they planned to pick up on their return train trip back through Pine Bluff.
“There was a time when every single hook in his little shop was occupied by a watch in need of repair,” Bussey said. “The shop was not big but dad and Sonny did so much business there. Besides the train station there was also a taxi cab company that was right next to Sonny’s shop and that provided him with a good deal of customers as well.”
Bussey explained that her brother learned his time-honored craft from their father, Clarence Ross Spharler Sr.
“Dad first opened up Spharler’s Jewelry in 1936 and Sonny began working with him when he was around 14,” Bussey said.
In a 2009 Commercial article on Spharler, he recounted what life was like in the days when downtown Pine Bluff was the business hub of the community.
“We stayed open until the early evening then, and to 10 p.m. or midnight on Saturdays, when downtown was it, ” Spharler said in 2009. “People have changed a bit. In the early years they were much more humble because they didn’t have a lot of money. Now they have more money and are more demanding. However, if you treat them right, they do become friends.”
Bussey said that her brother sold one of the two work benches in his shop to a man named Bob Abbott when Abbott was trying to open up his own business.
“Nobody else would help him get started but Sonny wanted to help,” Bussey said.
In a 1989 Commercial article on Spharler, he recounted the lessons he learned from his father.
“I learned how to repair watches, of course,” he said then. “And how to run a business. He taught me some things I probably couldn’t have learned in school. Dad was one of the first class watch makers in this part of the country. He also taught me how to treat everyone as fairly and squarely as possible.”
Bussey said that her brother’s long tenure in the Pine Bluff business community and friendly nature netted him a number of life-long friends.
“Sonny was one of the ones who you could find over at Sno-White’s,” Bussey said, referring to the longtime downtown eatery where several generations of local business leaders and politicians have gathered for meals and conversation.
Bussey is an admirer of her brother’s independent nature.
“He always took care of himself and never depended on anybody for anything,” Bussey said.
Spharler expressed sentiments over the business inherited from his father in the 1989 Commercial article.
“I enjoy and get satisfaction taking care of people’s problems,” Spharler said then. “It means a lot to them, and I get a lot of self-satisfaction and pride from that.”