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Frank L. Moose Jeweler Makes the Tough Call to Move On

Geoff Jennings in his office surrounded by articles, magazines and photos that catalog the long relationship between the store and community.

There aren’t many retailers that have been in business for 82 years, finding a way to survive the Great Depression and later thrive in a downtown setting, but that is exactly what Frank L. Moose Jeweler has done in Roanoke.

Last week, the announcement that President Geoff Jennings had decided to close the downtown location and re-open a scaled down version early next year in the Grandin Road area made news and likely caused a lot of long-time Roanokers pause, realizing that this move also signals the end of an era for many – one that recalls the days when downtown was the primary place to shop, and found workers and homemakers alike hobnobbing at places like Miller & Rhoads and navigating busy sidewalk storefronts.

Back in 1982 the Roanoke Times ran an article, “A Gem of a Job” about then 90-year-old Frank L.  Moose, who was still very much a part of the jewelry business he co-founded in 1928. Though he was no longer working full time, he was still a welcome and reassuring fixture at the downtown shop, and remained so as much as he could until he died at age 97.

Moose’s daughter and son-in-law, Frances and Harold Jennings, then took over the business, which included the bridal shop Frances had later added. Son Geoff has been President of the business since his father Hal died in 1998.

The closing of Frank L. Moose Jeweler elicits far more than a discussion of the intricacies of the business decision for Jennings. The conversation continually steers to memories… family memories, memories of customers and their families, and the way business used to be done.

The store has a polished, professional, but also “family room feel,” as photos and framed articles highlighting business milestones are tucked on shelves and grouped in niches throughout the store. History and pride are intermingled with an extensive inventory of merchandise—perhaps one of the more eclectic offerings of any jewelry store in the area; they even still carry “silver baby cups, which are hard to find these days,” Jennings noted.

Leaning back into memories, Geoff Jennings fondly and proudly recalls that in 1982 his mother Frances was named “Mother of the Year” in Roanoke. Sadly, Frances passed away this past May. Perhaps losing his mom, along with the birth of Jennings’ first grandchild 14 months ago, are milestones that beg the question of retirement – a word that seems difficult to pin on Jennings, whose boyish good looks (and great head of hair that hasn’t changed much since high school) just don’t line up with his 63 years.

None of Jennings’ three children are inclined to join the family business—they have all established careers in other fields. His only daughter is a veterinarian – a far cry from a jeweler.  Jennings has no remorse about this; he believes retail is a difficult environment these days.

So why close now? Jennings says the bottom-line reason for the decision was the lease, which ends in December. He feels there is too much uncertainty in the months ahead and doesn’t want to re-sign and later have to consider breaking it. When “gold and platinum [prices]went crazy a year ago, it made it tough for manufacturers to carry inventory, and it affects retail across the board.”

His new venture will alleviate the problem of high overhead, and he is planning to be open fewer hours, to allow more time to spend with his wife and to visit their kids who live out of town. A former competitive power lifter (who knew?), the soft-spoken Jennings is also looking forward to: yard work. He says, “I love yard work, except when it’s 95 … I’ll have time to take care of things, water plants.”

There are some stand-out memories he enjoys pointing out; Jennings’ eyes pop as he relays that they were robbed at gunpoint in 1972 in what he says was called a “spectacular robbery in the state of Virginia that year.” It turns out the perpetrators had “cased the store two times before coming in the third time and pulling four guns.”

Jennings adds, “I was out to lunch and walked right in on it, just in time to get a gun shoved into my stomach. They got about $100,000 worth of merchandise—they took bags and ran out, directly to a flat lot [that is now a parking garage]. The owner, Mr. Smith, got a license plate which allowed police to track them down in Richmond that night.” The store got most of the inventory back; “we were extremely fortunate.”

His store was another business affected by the infamous “Flood of ’85.” Jennings says “the basement was totally decimated; china and crystal floated to the ceiling – we found crystal hanging off the pipes in the ceiling. The water reached several feet on our main level.” For two weeks, they worked in the dark; Jennings remembers “taking earrings outside to show a customer, then coming back in to wrap them up.”  They were incredulous as they saw cars floating down Campbell Avenue. The clean-up effort took weeks, but of course the merchandise, “the gold and silver, just needed cleaning.”

The mixed feelings are evident, but there is a resolve in his decision as well. Calling Frank L. Moose Jeweler a “destination store,” Jennings said he so appreciates “our extremely loyal client base; I’ve just enjoyed making people happy.” He lists off the names of family after family he has served over the years. He looks forward to continuing those relationships in his new “destination” shop, F. Geoffrey LTD.

He is also looking forward to lingering over coffee with his breakfast buddy, his dog “Molly, a real sweetheart, a ’Heinz 57’ dog (probably a mix of Lab and Corgi), who gets two biscuits every morning.”

Visit  for more information on the store closing and  F. Geoffrey LTD.

By Cheryl Hodges
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