Submitted by Gerry Clare
One of the oldest continuously operating businesses on Centre Street is Robison’s Jewelry Company at 217 Centre Street. The Whitakers originally purchased the jewelry store from Mr. Robison in 1966 when it was in the Swann Building. That store had been operating since 1952. When the Whitakers purchased the Angel Building in 1973, they moved the store to its present location at the corner of 3rd and Centre. According to Melba Whitaker, the Super Dollar store, a 5 and 10 cent store took up the whole building, but Franz Mitchell and the Whitakers divided it into two separate spaces. While Bob Whitaker handled the store, Melba continued her career as a school teacher.
Back then the store was into jewelry, and gifts including the very popular bridal registry. However, when large department stores got into that business, Robison’s dropped that line and focused on the jewelry, repair and fine gifts. Now Jeff and Brett Whitaker run the store. Jeff does the repairs and appraisals in house and is a certified gemologist while Brett is a certified diamond grader.
Interestingly enough the Whitakers feel that there is a good blend of local versus tourist business. Melba surveyed 42 business owners downtown about two years ago and found that approximately 47% of their business was local and 53% was tourist-driven. They all agree that there is a good mix of businesses downtown now and that the city commission and merchants have done some good things for the business climate.
Most definitely, we expect to continue to see Robison’s continue its long term success on Centre Street.
When I stopped in to see Scott Moore at 8 Flags Insurance, the current president of the Historic Fernandina Business Association, he agreed with the Whitakers that the downtown area was showing signs of positive growth. Several buildings like the Chandler building have been sprucing up as well as redoing storefronts and interiors such as Harbor Wear and Ships Lantern as well as the old bank building where Pepper’s and Don Quixote are located. Also, several new restaurants and shops have been moving downtown as well. “This is a very exciting time for our businesses.”
March 18, 2013 1:44 a.m.