LOWER POTTSGROVE — What will shortly come to an finish as a lifetime vocation started as a bit of tinkering.
Uwe Bauer, who has introduced after 50 years in enterprise the closing of his iconic retailer — The Silver Shoppe — has had many pursuits through the years. He has harbored a ardour for fishing to loosen up, for gardening to assist his two youngsters perceive how their meals is grown. He even took up beekeeping for a time.
But the one factor by which his curiosity has by no means waned is making his personal jewellery. He simply by no means thought he might make a dwelling doing it.
Fifty years later, the proof is obvious not solely that he might and did make a dwelling, however that for his many loyal prospects, the closing of his store is the top of an period.
“We’ve had people in here in tears,” mentioned Bauer who, with the assistance of his spouse Margaret, has run the store at 2452 E. High St. in Sanatoga since 1979. “We had one customer drive up from Germantown, Maryland when he heard we were closing. That’s a three-hour drive.”
What drives this loyalty is that Bauer, who solely works with silver, designs all of his personal jewellery. Some he makes from scratch. Other items he makes by repurposing such various objects as silver forks or the etched prime from an outdated jar picked up at a flea market.
“We had someone come in and tell us they were on a cable car in San Francisco wearing a pair of our earrings and someone came up and asked, ‘did you get those at The Silver Shoppe in Pottstown?’” mentioned Margaret.
The store has attracted a various clientele
Baseball nice and Pottstown High School graduate Howie Bedell was identified to carry court docket within the store. “We would have all kinds of people in here talking baseball and once they got going, they could be here all day,” mentioned Uwe. He didn’t thoughts, he simply stored on working in his workshop within the again.
“One time Howie took off his Phillies ring and let another person hold it and the guy dropped it, and the red stone popped out. He was mortified,” Uwe mentioned with a smile and a chuckle. But for those who’re going to want a prized ring repaired, it’s good to be hanging out in a jewellery store.
“I told him don’t worry, I can fix it,” Uwe mentioned. In reality, he has achieved many repairs through the years, although “generally speaking, they’re a money loser. But I figured maybe that person comes back when they want some new jewelry. I’ve never said no to a repair.”
He additionally earned loyalty from future prospects by giving them presents as youngsters. “I didn’t really have anything for little boys, but often when a little girl came in, I would give her a chain with a cat’s face charm hanging off of it. It may not be worth much when you’re 5-, 6- or a 7-year-old girl, something like that is priceless,” he mentioned.
Many of those self same younger prospects would return “to buy gifts for their teacher,” added Margaret.
In reality, “I’ve had those same people come back here years later with their children and their grandchildren,” mentioned Uwe, apparently amazed at how fondly they recall him and his reward.
His reward is extra than simply ability with silver
The store and shopkeeper appear to strike an emotional chord with prospects. “We have people who moved away and when they come back to Pottstown, this is part of their tour, one of the places they visit,” he mentioned. “One customer told me she let her father know we were closing, and he lives in Iowa now.”
“People always seemed comfortable talking to me and they would tell me all kinds of things about their lives,” he mentioned with a slight German accent giving his dialog a world lilt. Evidence that he and his store are fashionable requires a go to of just a few moments.
When a reporter arrived, even supposing the store was closed, three prospects who seen the door open have been discovered chatting with the couple and searching wistfully on the shows, with one remarking “I’ve already spent too much money…let me look one more time.”
Later within the interview, neighbor and former township commissioner Tom Troutman and his daughter stopped in to go to. Troutman, who has lived in the identical location for greater than 80 years reminisced, “I remember when this was a grocery store, and I used to stock the shelves for some extra money. And it was a barbershop and an upholstery shop.”
But for 46 years, it has been The Silver Shoppe, though High Street will not be its first location.
Where all of it started
The enterprise began in a small store in Collegeville, throughout from the Ursinus College campus.
The couple met in Brooklyn, the place Uwe labored for a e-book writer and Margaret labored for the state. Both lived in the identical small house constructing.
“He was taking out the trash and I was with my girlfriend and I told her ‘I get to go first,’” recalled Margaret with amusing. The couple married earlier than a justice of the peace in Yonkers, N.Y., who interrupted his dinner to carry out the ceremony.
Uwe was all the time making jewellery for associates, after which different associates would ask him for a bit. “I figured maybe I could do this for a living,” he mentioned. He by no means had any formal coaching and realized to work with silver in Germany when “they didn’t know what to do with people who were studying electronics, so they put us in with the metalworkers, where I learned how to solder and things like that.”
“I would try at something, and get frustrated and tell myself, this is never going to work, and then someone would buy something and tell me how beautiful it was, and that would keep me going for a while,” he mentioned.
The couple would carry Uwe’s wares, contained in a medium-sized cardboard valise, to varied flea markets and ultimately, they discovered their solution to one in Collegeville. “I realized we never look at these towns, we just go to the flea markets, so I took a drive down Main Street. And there I saw a small shop with the sign in the window that said ‘for rent.’ It was only $100 a month,” he mentioned.
“So I went back and got Margaret and said ‘I want to show you something’ and she took a look and then said ‘I’m game if you are,’” he recalled.
Located within the rear of the constructing of the brand new retailer was a Realtor by the identify of Tony Giamo, who not solely discovered them the store, and their first residence in Norristown, but additionally discovered them a second residence in Lower Pottsgrove in 1976. The mortgage for that residence was obtained solely after Giamo threatened to take his banking companies elsewhere if the Bauers didn’t get authorized.
Three years later they misplaced the lease on the Collegeville store, however the serendipity which appears to have trailed the Bauers continued. “The day after we lost the lease, I looked out the window and saw a for sale sign in this place, right across the street,” Uwe mentioned.
So they moved throughout the road into a brand new residence and enterprise and so they’ve been there ever since. The residence and store are related via the basement “so, in the winter, Uwe doesn’t even have to go outside to open the shop,” Margaret mentioned.
In 1980, Margaret went again to work for the state Welfare workplace “after the price of silver went sky high, and that’s been good for us for the health insurance,” she mentioned. She has labored for 40 years.
The couple raised two daughters. Anna Smith, her husband Matt, and grandchildren Clayton and Katharine reside in Fairfax, Virginia. Katie Biskey, her husband Joe, and grandchildren Kellen and Alessia, reside in Jessup, Maryland. The sisters and their households are solely about 40 minutes aside and it’s the Bauers’ intention to discover a place someplace in between to retire and see extra of their youngsters and grandchildren.
In the meantime, they’re targeted on promoting the property and cleansing out the shop, one thing that has been aided by information that it’s closing however will stay open via Mother’s Day.
And “business is booming,” mentioned Uwe. “We had the best Christmas ever, which makes closing now even sadder, but as we get older trying to clean this place out starts looking harder and harder.”