Lang Jewelry store to close after 96 years in business

Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Lang's Jewelry store (Submitted photo)

Roger and Judith Anne Lang have mixed emotions about deciding to close a family jewelry business that has operated in the same location for the past 96 years.

"It's very bittersweet," says Judith Anne. "On one hand, we're ready to retire and enjoy life. But, on the other hand, we will miss our customers, as many of them have become dear friends over the years."

Judith Anne and Roger Lang are the owners Lang Jewelry & Fine Gifts in Cape Girardeau. (Fred Lynch)

Roger's grandfather, Hugo Lang Sr., started in the jewelry business as an apprentice for N.S. Weiler Jewelers in downtown Cape Girardeau in 1905. Weiler, the owner of the store, died suddenly in 1916 and Hugo bought the business from Weiler's widow, taking over the debt, which had to be approved by the store's vendors.

"They then changed the name of the business to H.A. Lang Jewelers & Optician, as they carried eyeglasses as well as jewelry back then," says Judith Anne. "Many of the original fixtures, including the grandfather clock [that sits in front of the store], have been here since the store opened."

Hugo Sr. and his wife, Anna Mae, ran the jewelry business and had two sons, Hugo Jr. (Jay) and Bernard (Bernie).

"Bernie was Roger's dad," says Judith Anne.

Both Jay and Bernie served time in World War II and when they returned from the military, both of them came back and worked in the jewelry store.

"Then, in 1950, Hugo Sr. retired and sold the business to Jay and Bernie, and they changed the name to Lang's Jewelers," says Judith Anne. "Up until he passed away, Hugo Sr. still came to the store every day unless the Cardinals were on, as he was a huge Cardinals fan."

In 1966, the store was remodeled.

"They put in flocked wallpaper and turquoise carpeting and did a lot of upgrading. Lots of businesses were modernizing during that era in downtown Cape," says Judith Anne.

Roger, Bernie's son, went to college to be an architect and graduated in 1968. He then served in the National Guard.

Advertisement for Lang's Jewelers that appeared in the Southeast Missourian in 1917. (File photo)

"When he returned from the military, his dad and uncle asked him to join the business," says Judith Anne.

Roger went to Gem City College in Quincy, Ill., and learned the jewelry trade.

"Up to that point, the store had a huge watchmaking trade," says Judith Anne. "As watches became more modern, the store branched out into jewelry repair and ring sizing."

Roger joined the business in 1974, working with his father and Uncle Jay until Jay died in 1993. Bernie stayed on until he became ill in 2000. Bernie died in 2003.

"This business kept the same location and stayed in the same family for all those years," says Judith Anne. "Very few businesses in the area can say that."

Over the years, the business evolved into a popular location for brides-to-be to register for silverware and silver tea services.

Judith Anne believes the family's big-hearted attitude toward customers is what made the business successful for all those years.

"People loved to come in and visit and hang out and share stories," says Judith Anne. "The Langs always encouraged that."

The store also had a reputation for working with customers who were short on cash.

"Many of our customers over the years did not have a great deal of money," says Judith Anne. "The Langs knew that, and they would work with customers if they needed to make payments on an item. People would come into the store as customers and leave as friends."

The decision to close the store was a difficult one for Roger and Judith Anne, but one that they were ready to do.

"A lot of our friends are retiring, and we wanted to quit working while we are still healthy and young enough to enjoy retirement," says Judith Anne. "We'd like to be able to travel, visit family and pursue some of our personal interests."

Among those interests for Roger are hunting, camping and fishing. Judith Anne hopes to spend time gardening and continuing to work on their home.

"We bought a 100-year-old house in downtown Cape and have lived in it for 15 years. There are still a lot of things we'd like to do to the house, but we just haven't had the time," she says.

The closing sale for Lang Jewelry and Fine Gifts will begin in September and run through October. Then, the fixtures, antiques and other items pertaining to the business will be sold.

"We hope to be completely finished with everything by Thanksgiving," says Judith Anne.

Although the store closing is bittersweet for Roger and Judith Anne, they are happy with their decision.

"We feel a readiness to do it," says Judith Anne.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: