Sadly and without fanfare, as of last year the name “Grecoe Jewelers” is no longer on Andover’s horizon. But the longest, continuous running business in Town — 81 years — lives on in the thoughts of their loyal customers. Such an accomplishment represents pride of workmanship, attention to detail, and, of course, a good story.
John Grecoe came from a large family in East Cambridge, Massachusetts. Having joined the Navy in World War I as a young man, he returned to that city and opened a delicatessen, with his sister contributing the baked goods.
Mr. Grecoe went on to the Bradley Polytechnic Institute in Peoria, Illinois, known as “the oldest school of horology (the art of making watches) in the world.” Upon graduation, he was employed by the largest importers of Swiss watches in New England. And in the years before coming to Andover, he worked in the jewelry repair departments of Boston stores and in St. Johnsbury, Vermont where he had the task of inspecting watches for three railroads.
Fate interceded when a salesman stopped by the Vermont store and mentioned a little store for sale in Andover. Son Barry Grecoe laughs at the memory of this store, located at 47 Main Street, which was “about the width of a door.”
This small space was in between Henry Miller’s shoe store and Ben Franklin’s variety store (once a separate building, long torn down). Originally intended to be the doorway to second floor businesses, the space was eight-feet wide, 40 feet deep and built over Roger’s Brook, which ran under the street. John Ferguson, also a jeweler, was the original tenant.
As a nod to the size of the store, Grecoe Jewelers soon began advertising as “The Best Little Jewelry Store in the State,” a moniker that stuck through several locations.
When the ARCO building was constructed, Mr. Grecoe took the opportunity to expand, moving across the street in 1936. The sale of that building forced Grecoe Jeweler’s into a quick move in 1955, and they were able to find a new location next door at 42 Main Street (now 46 Main). Ironically, this store also ran over Roger’s Brook, which was exposed in the basement and not very pleasant for the new store owners.
Finally, Mr. Grecoe found his most permanent location at 26 Park, where the business remained for 42 years. A final move to North Main Street was short-lived.
Since 1947, Mr. Grecoe was assisted by his son Barry. Barry Grecoe didn’t initially have aspirations to take on his dad’s business, but working in the store part-time during the summer changed his mind.
Barry, with wife Nancy, shared good memories of how the town supported several local jewelers and how “everyone helped each other.”
In addition to jewelry and watch repairs, the Grecoes took on the job of “optician” in the early 1940s. Items for sale included Schick shavers, money belts, chinaware, hearing aids, dresser sets, travel kits, glassware and pen & pencil sets.
Many of these items tied into the store’s long-running silver business. Mr. Grecoe boasted that in spite of store size, they were “agents for every pattern of silverware made in America.” This was accomplished through contacting all the silver companies in operation. That business was very good until silver prices soared.
Phillips Academy class jewelry was another long-running — and valued — part of the business.
Over the Grecoe’s long history, their customers became their friends. One is Andover resident Susan Spark who said, “I miss my visits to Grecoe’s. Their store always reminded me of how friendly, helpful service has taken a back seat in today’s mediocre, faceless box stores.”