CAMAS — Some people pass jewelry down to their sons or daughters. The Runyan family passed down a jewelry store.
This Saturday, Runyan’s Jewelers third-generation owner Debbie Runyan-Parker will honor the store her grandfather opened in 1946 with an open house. Though she hopes to showcase the store’s offerings and its willingness to adapt, the event may also reintroduce people to its legacy of customer care.
“The most important thing is to honor my grandparents and my parents and the graciousness they’ve taught me,” Runyan said. “It’s not about me. It’s about the store. It’s about what my family has taught and instilled in our DNA. When my customers walk in, it’s not what I want to sell them, it’s what they want.”
Not to be confused with Erik Runyan Jewelers in downtown Vancouver, which is owned by another branch of the extended family, the Camas store opened in 1946. Founder Emerson Runyan relocated the business to the downtown area two years later.
The open house, which runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, will feature long-time owners Barbara and Paul Runyan.
Runyan-Parker, 56, took over for her parents in 1997 and business has changed quite a bit, she said. In the old days, the business boomed along with the Camas mill. As a young girl she recalled her parents welcoming workers who tromped into the store looking for watch repairs. The pervasive smell of the mill, they told their daughters, may as well be the smell of money.
“As long as that mill was in business, we were in business,” she said they would say.
The mill’s production and workforce has waned, she said, and business throughout the downtown core has, too. Improvements to watch technology have driven repairs down somewhat, and big box chains have drawn customers away.
But the store’s employees have innovated, too, Runyan-Parker said. Engagement ring sales have been steady and customization has grown more important as she has expanded the store’s engraving services. A large flat-screen monitor at the central counter shows customers three-dimensional renderings of custom jewelry.
“I’m not stagnant. I try to stay trendy, up to the technology, and I don’t have jewelry that everybody else has,” she said.
And when heirlooms are your trade, there are repeat customers dating back generations, Runyan said. She recalled an elderly man stopping by recently with a ring he bought his wife in 1953.
“He was so happy we were still here and he just wanted to come in and share that story,” she said.
Carrie Schulstad, executive director of the Downtown Camas Association, called Runyan’s Jewelers an important facet of the downtown area.
“To have businesses that have been around for decades just speaks to what people value,” she said. “There’s just some sort of comfort when you’re walking down the street and things are the same and you have that feeling of tradition.”