One afternoon Paula Grokett discovered her husband Greg's old violin up in the attic of their Gresham home.
The instrument was dusty, its strings were frayed, and it hadn't been played in years. But Paula wanted to pick up more hobbies, so she had the violin fixed up and started to take lessons. Wanting to join in on her musical afternoons, but now missing an instrument to play, Greg bought a cello, and the Grokett home was filled with music.
"I usually don't do things like that, but I picked up the instrument, took the class, and fell in love with it," Paula said.
That's what the couple is focusing on as they creep toward the once unthinkable — retirement. After 35 years of operating GoldArt Jewelry, 55 N.W. First St., in downtown Gresham, the pair are locking up for the last time on Dec. 31.
"It's time to move on to the ninth inning and not wake up in the morning wondering which hot iron is the hottest," Greg said.
It has been an emotional decision, and Paula can't help but tear up when she remembers all the amazing customers — a term she doesn't like to use, instead thinking of them as relationships. But it is time. There have been too many long hours and sleepless nights that have taken the pair away from the other things they are passionate about. It's not just music, but motorcycles, coffee with friends, trips, family, and so much more.
That is the silver, or perhaps gold, lining of stepping away after so many decades building up the shop. And who knows what Paula will next discover in her attic.
"I have to tell myself this isn't the end," Paula said.
"No, it's the beginning of the next thing," Greg said with a smile.
Lifetime of jewelry
Jewelry is in Greg's blood. His father operated a business in Sandy that sold watches and clocks, and as a teenager Greg would help out.
"This is all I have ever done. I was 12 years old walking to work with my dad," he said.
GoldArt opened in September of 1986 with a $1,000 dollar loan from some friends and a 400-square-foot shop on Southeast Roberts Avenue. There was barely enough space for the showcases and Greg's workstation, but the couple made it work. Many evenings Greg would work through the night and Paula would sleep on the floor, but the two never missed a deadline. The closest it came was 3 a.m. on Christmas Eve finishing a present for a customer.
"A year and a half in I thought, 'Son of a gun, this is going to work,'" Greg said.
GoldArt Jewelry moved to its current location, and Paula joined full-time. Greg describes her talents as almost magical. While he works in the backroom, she runs the front of the shop. If a customer comes in looking for a piece of jewelry for a loved one, Paula can find the perfect fit after a 5 minute conversation.
"I could teach her how to set a piece of jewelry, but what she is able to do is so unique," Greg said. "I don't know if she fell on her head at some point, but she is able to connect with everyone who comes in the door."
Paula likens her role to that of a counselor or bartender — she listens.
"Every day I come in is different because you never know who is coming in through the door," she said. "Our customers have given more to me than I have ever given back to them. They trust us with the biggest events in their lives, from weddings and birthdays to Christmas and engagements."
GoldArt Jewelry is different from what you would find in a big department store. They craft and curate, from fellow small businesses, rings and pendants, earrings, bracelets and more.
Greg does repair work, and solves disasters daily. Last week he was working on replacing a missing, beloved earring. It was an irreplaceable piece of jewelry, gifted to a longtime customer from her grandmother. But it was lost in the hustle and bustle of life. So Greg looked at a photograph, made a mold, and cast a new earring to complete the pair.
"Most jewelry stores don't have their own workshop, so people will come in with something and I can often fix it for them faster than I can write their name on an envelope," he said.
Those quick fixes Greg always does for free, valuing the customer service and the smiles it brings. If the customer persists, Paula always offers one surefire form of payment — a chocolate chip cookie for Greg and a chardonnay for her.
Places like GoldArt are going to be hard to find. Whenever a customer asks where they should go after the end of the year, the couple find themselves at a loss.
"No matter who it is, everyone gets our personal attention and time," Paula said. "Treating customers in a good way is a dying art."
And with GoldArt soon closing the doors, one of the longest standing businesses in downtown will be gone, with Amiton Furniture and M&M Restaurant and Lounge being some of the last holdouts.
"We have seen so many changes — when we first opened downtown would be quiet and empty by 5:30 p.m.," Greg said. "Now it is alive in the evenings, which has been nice to see. It has been a fast 35 years."
Motorcycles and coffee
Both Paula and Greg are planning what the future holds.
Greg is an avid gearhead, owning five motorcycles, and he is looking forward to finally joining his buddies on overnight rides. He also won't completely hang-up the pliers, as he built a workshop in a shed at his home and is planning on crafting jewelry he has never had time to complete with all the workorders.
Paula wants to take art classes through Mt. Hood Community College, perhaps focusing on calligraphy. She also wants to learn a new language. And perhaps what she is most looking forward to is sitting down with friends to have a cup of coffee and connect, without looming deadlines back at the shop.
"It is time to take the time for all those things," Greg said.
Retiring is one of the hardest things Paula has faced. GoldArt was a lifelong project for the two of them, and it is almost impossible to imagine shutting the door for the last time in December. When the couple first made the announcement back in August, there was an outpouring of love on social media. And those customers have been flooding into the shop to visit and purchase one last piece.
"I thought we would be able to cruise to the end, but we are busier now more than ever," Greg said.
But neither he nor Paula would change a thing — they love every time the door swings open with a new customer. After the announcement, Greg's pieces were bought up almost instantaneously. But there is still jewelry curated by Paula available at the shop, and everything is 20% off.
"Love what you do, I don't care what it is," Paula said. "As long as you love going in every day it won't feel like you are going to work."
Every evening when the couple gets home from work, they like to sit down and talk about their days. It is always the people that come up, whomever walked in looking for a new piece of jewelry, swung by to say hello, or even just to pet Otis the cat.
"Every night it is the people we take home with us," Paula said with tears in her eyes. "I want to take this opportunity to say goodbye."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.