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Bristol Post
Bristol Post
Louisa Streeting

Popular family-run jeweller in South Gloucestershire up for auction after 132 years

A popular jeweller in South Gloucestershire looks set to close its doors for good after 132 years of the same family serving the community. J A Zahringer on Regent Street in Kingswood, one of the longest serving businesses in the area, will go up for auction next week.

The shop - which also sells clocks, china and gifts - is currently run by three brothers who are third-generation Zahringers. Co-owner, Paul, 76, who lives in Westbury-On-Trym, decided it was time to retire and his younger brothers, Tim and Andrew, 65 and 62 respectively, want to follow his in footsteps. Their children - of which they have six between them - have decided not to continue the business after the three of them retire.

Tim works on a lot of the clock and watch repairs while Andrew specialises in fixing broken jewellery, working in a room above the shop. Paul covers the front of the shop and speaks directly with the customers.

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"We've all got different roles," the eldest brother, Paul, told BristolLive. "I wouldn't have a clue what Andrew does upstairs - he'll repair a chain or something and you can never find where it's been fixed, he's superb. Tim will make a bracelet or something from scratch."

J A Zahringer is a treasure trove of jewellery, clocks, figurines and dining sets. Household names from days gone by such as Royal Crown Derby and Royal Doulton line the shelves of the glass cabinets, with a healthy stock of Lladro and Walt Disney collectables.

The family has kept an archive of memories from over the years, including newspapers and photographs (Daisy TianDai/BristolLive)

"It's the end of an era," Paul said dejectedly and explained there is a great feeling of sadness among the Zahringer family. Pam Zahringer, who has been married to Paul for 52 years, said all of the brothers' children had helped in some form or another over the years.

The founder, Joseph Zahringer, moved from Germany to England in the 1870s to learn the watchmaking trade, taking an apprenticeship in Gloucestershire before moving to Kingswood. The shop was initially opened on Boultons Lane before moving to the Regents Street site in 1890, with his entire family living in the rooms upstairs.

Andrew recalled being told by his father that his grandfather, Joseph, had been taken to an internment centre on the Isle of Man during World War One. This was due to his German heritage.

It's been a part of the high street for well over 100 years (Daisy TianDai/BristolLive)

After Joseph's death in 1933, and a funeral attended by many, the shop was run by his wife Thirza during the war with help from her son Cecil. After the war, her youngest son Reginald and his wife, Audrey, came to help run the business, which was when brother Cecil turned more to music, playing piano in the nearby cinema bar at the time.

"We bought next door in the 1980s and obviously knocked through and had it ever since," Paul recalled. His father, Reginald, was a very skilled clockmaker and could make any intricate part from scratch.

"When I started, most of the shop windows were clocks, watches and jewellery. Over a period of time when we developed the shop from the 1980s onwards, we filled it with more gift lines. One of the biggest customers was the Ernesco group as in those days we used to sell so many figurines."

Paul pictured behind the shop counter when he was younger (J A Zahringer)

The landscape of the Kingswood high street has evolved massively over the last centenary. Paul remarked how there were once three butchers and now there are none, along with many more clothes shops. He recognises there has been a change in buying habits in recent years. "No one wants ornaments around their house anymore that they've got to pick up and clean."

Paul, who started working in the shop around Christmas time in 1959, started off helping his father polish clock parts. "It will be the first time in 62 years, if the sale goes through, that I haven't worked all over Christmas.

"To have a Christmas at home will be unheard of." Christmas Eve is always the day they have kept the shop open latest, due to an influx of last-minute shoppers scrambling for a gift.

(Daisy TianDai/BristolLive)

The family had hoped someone outside of the family might be interested in taking over the business, with Paul staying on part-time as a consultant. "With interest rates going up, people could buy the property but not as a business, because of the stock levels. We will have to sell the business and then run the stock down."

Paul has said it will take weeks to run the stock down in the shop after it's been sold and they'll be able to move out, so a closure date is still left to be decided. Generations of customers have been coming to the shop.

The business had been strong recently, which made the decision to sell up even more difficult. "We're not closing down due to a lack of business, we're merely closing down due to retirement.

"It will be a shame to say bye-bye, but we shall have to wait and see what happens," he added. The sale will go to auction on Tuesday, September 12, with the shop announcing the closure when the sale is confirmed.

J A Zahringer located at 3 Regent Street in Kingswood, open Monday to Saturday each week.

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