WILKES-BARRE – Bartikowsky Jewelers, an institution in the downtown for 125 years, is going out of business.
Owners Max Bartikowsky and Lynn and Mac Ahmad said Thursday the business has been sold to an unnamed out-of state group and a going-out-of-business sale will begin next week.
It was the right time, Lynn Ahmad said. We wouldn't have done it if all the ducks didn't line up in the perfect row.
Ahmad said she is the fourth generation to own the business. I'm nostalgic, but I'm not sad, Ahmad said. This has been my family's business for my entire life. We all felt comfortable with our decision.
Ahmad said they are not selling the building and property on South Main Street. She said once the sale is over, whatever remains will be turned over to the new company.
Everything in the building is for sale, she said. We are not selling the Bartikowsky name.
Ahmad said she, Mac and Max will miss the daily interaction with customers – both repeat customers and new. And they will miss their employees – some have been there for 40 years.
They are our extended family, Ahmad said. That is truly the saddest part of this. I'm sure we will keep in touch.
Ahmad said no one in the family's next generation was interested in taking over the business. Her uncle, Max, 82, is president and CEO of the company.
At some point we had to resolve everything, she said. Max has been here more than 60 years. This was the right time.
Bartikowsky Jewelers was founded in 1887 by Max Bartikowsky (Max's grandfather), who emigrated to the United States in 1880 from his home on the border of Germany and Lithuania. The business has always been family owned and operated.
Friends and preferred customers of the store received a flyer in the mail announcing a special invitation-only sale Tuesday through Thursday. The sale will open to the general public on Nov. 16.
According to history on the company's website:
• Founder Max Bartikowsky became friends with another budding itinerant merchant, F. M. Kirby. They talked about going into business together, but could not agree on what to sell. Bartikowsky wanted to sell gold, silver and diamonds; Kirby wanted to sell pots and pans. Kirby went on to become one of the founders of the largest five- and-dime store chain in the world.
• In 1905 the first store opened on Main Street in Kingston. The location changed from the east side to the west side of the Susquehanna River and back again.
• In 1927 Max's son Bernard took over the company and purchased a three-story building on Public Square in 1948. Bernard's sons Leonard and Max joined the business, as did his son-in-law, the late Jay Karnofsky.
• In 1957 Bartikowsky's became one of the early pioneers of catalog showroom merchandising by publishing a four-color catalog. The catalog sales produced a large spurt in growth. The catalog years ended with the 1988 edition.
• In 1972 the Agnes Flood displaced the store to a temporary location until the corporation bought a large building in 1978, the current location on South Main Street.
• Bernard Bartikowsky died in 1990 at the age of 92. His son Leonard retired in 1994 and his son-in-law, Jay Karnofsky, the corporation's longtime president retired in 1999. He died on Oct. 14.
• Jay's son-in-law, Mac Ahmad, current vice-president/COO of the corporation, joined the business 31 years ago. Along with Jay's daughter Lynn Karnofsky-Ahmad (secretary-treasurer), Max Bartikowsky, Bernard's youngest son and current president/CEO, continued the Bartikowsky tradition.