Jeweler Vicki Cunningham is closing her Tulsa shop
BY KYLE ARNOLD World Staff Writer
Friday, November 30, 2012
11/30/12 at 4:40 AM
Vicki Cunningham isn't tired of diamonds and gold, but she has decided to walk away from her jewelry shop after 26 years.
The owner of Cunningham Fine Jewelry announced this week that she will follow her husband and business partner, Howard, into retirement and close their midtown store.
Vicki, 61, has been running things for just over a year after Howard, 71, stepped down from full-time activity.
Faced with a decision to renew a lease for five more years or hang up her jewelers loop, Cunningham said she plans to sell all her merchandise and close.
"It was a hard decision, and we've cried a lot of tears," she said. "But in the end we thought this was best."
The move marks the end of another "neighborhood jeweler" in an industry that is becoming dominated by national chains with big advertising budgets and glitzy, high-profile locations.
Since 1997, Cunningham Fine Jewelry has been located in Southroads Shopping Center at 41st Street and Yale Avenue, across from Tulsa Promenade shopping mall. But now the lease is about to expire.
Cunningham said she hopes to close the shop in January or early February after she sells all of the merchandise, fixtures and equipment. The store started a discount sale this week in an effort to move the fine jewelry faster.
"I want to retire and spend time with my grandkids," Vicki said. "I have so much I want to do."
She said she and Howard never seriously considered selling the store because it would require renegotiating the lease and spending several months looking for a buyer and working out details of a sale.
"Somebody may still come along before we shut down, but we're not planning on it," she said.
The Cunninghams opened their store in 1986 shortly after they were married. Howard was already a 15-year veteran in the jewelry and diamond wholesale business.
He started as a low-level employee at a jewelry shop and worked his way up the ladder to become a salesman and finally a buyer before starting a wholesale business. He said he considers himself an old-fashioned diamond expert who prides himself in knowing not just the gems but their history.
Vicki, on the other hand, was a manager, purchaser and owner for several apparel stores in Tulsa.
Together, the couple turned their individual skills into a successful, locally owned jewelry store.
Their first location was in an office tower at 51st Street and Lewis Avenue where Howard worked mostly on referrals to find people just the right diamonds for engagement rings, anniversary bands and other high-end accessories.
"It was tough," Howard said in an interview with the Tulsa World in July 2011. "You didn't know about us unless someone told you."
The business moved a few times before settling at 5211 E. 41st St.
Although Howard retired last year, he still spent a few hours most days at the shop, handling accounts for longtime customers and friends.
Vicki said the couple plans to stay in the jewelry business in some respects, doing small work for private customers, adding that she may start working with estate sales as a jewelry consultant.
"Once our longtime customers started hearing we were shutting down, a lot of people started coming in," she said. "There have been a lot of hugs and good byes."
The shop has four employees.
Cunningham Fine Jewelry
5211 E 41st St.
Owners: Vicki and Howard Cunningham
Closing: Early 2013
Original Print Headline: Local jewelry shop closing
Kyle Arnold 918-581-8380
Vicki Cunningham, owner of Cunningham Jewelry, stands in her store in Tulsa on Thursday. She is retiring and closing the business after 26 years. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World