A place to get dates, but where to buy the ring?

Monday, May 6, 2002

smoyers

And they say diamonds are forever.

Paducah, Ky.-based Michelson Jewelers has announced that it will shut down all of its stores outside Paducah, Ky., meaning the Cape Girardeau jewelry store that has been at the mall since it opened in 1981 will close before the summer ends.

Michelson's has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after experiencing a 25 percent drop in sales from the last half of 2000 until the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The company announced sales declined by another third after Sept. 11.

That the stores will close by September was news to Westfield Shoppingtown manager Jim Govro.

"I'm usually the last one that knows," he said. "They try to keep it from the landlord."

But Govro said after it's confirmed, Westfield will get the corner location on the market, which he described as attractive.

"We've always had people wanting corner locations," he said. "They're very lucrative, and I don't think it will be vacant for long."

He said it sits right next to the old A&W, which could be combined for a nice large, retail store. But Govro said he understands how jewelry could be hit hard during a recession.

"I guess a farmer needs a new tractor before his wife needs a new diamond," he said.

It's been a tough year at the mall, with several businesses closing. It also has been a while since one of the anchor stores, ShopKo, closed. But Govro said the previous closings were planned and mall tenants are far from hurting.

He pointed a March gain in sales of 7.5 percent, which brings the year to date up to a 4 percent increase over last year.

"The thing about it is, these are the two comments we get from consumers: Either the mall's in bad shape because stores are closing or if we keep old stale tenants, there's nothing here."

"I regret the hardship this may create on our employees, vendors and customers," company president Louis Michelson told the Paducah Sun. "We tried to avoid this but probably should have done it sooner."

Affection connection

A perpetually unmarried friend of mine once quipped that being single meant he had the choice of going out with a variety of psychopaths instead of being stuck with the same one all the time.

As a six-year retiree from the single life, I can't even imagine how difficult it must be to discern dream-girl from demon or even gent from goon, but I've heard stories.

And they're not pretty.

But a new Cape Girardeau business hopes to help the lovelorn, the harried, the shy and even the out-and-out bored find the perfect match.

Matchmaker International opened last week at 364 S. Broadview, Suite C. It is owned by Heather Blair of the Kaiser Development Corp., and she also owns Matchmaker franchises in Paducah, Ky., and Evansville, Ind. There are a total of about 90 franchises in the United States.

"It's for people who are frustrated by the bar scene as well as the busy professional who just doesn't have time to get out and meet people," Blair said.

She said she opted to open such a business in Cape Girardeau because many of our residents had been contacting her Paducah office.

"Half of our inquiries in Paducah come from Cape," she said. "I have a customer base, so I'm not starting from scratch."

But she said her business is unique in that it's not a simple voice mail service, private lines or an Internet scheme that leaves people in the dark about who's on the other end of the line until the last minute.

At this business, she said they do the checking for you.

Interested people can arrange an interview in the office, where a counselor will spend about an hour and a half finding out about their education, values, hobbies, interests and traits they're looking for in a mate.

Those are all good to know. But they also will do a nationwide civil and criminal background check and verify that the person is actually single.

Then they hand-match people with similar likes and goals. They don't use computer matching or videos. Then matches are sent through the mail, which include a person's biography and phone number (but no picture, for you shallow people).

But clients are given a handbook of guidelines and suggestions can call in with questions about the date, Blair said.

"We follow up," she said. "We participate all through the process."

And it's for everyone interested in finding someone and they currently have clients from 18 to 89.

"These are safe people," she said. "We make sure of it. We want to match you with someone going in the same direction in life that you are. Someone you're going to be comfortable with. We're here to help you establish potentially long-term relationships."

Scott Moyers is business editor for the Southeast Missourian. Send your comments, business news, information or questions to Biz Buzz, 301 Broadway, Cape Girardeau, Mo., 63702-0699, e-mail to smoyers@semissourian.com or call 335-6611, ext. 137.

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