BROWNSVILLE — A jewel’s sparkle may last forever, but the same can’t be said for the jewel merchant: R.H. Lackner’s Fine Jewelry & Gifts will close its doors for good once its lease expires in early fall.
The store is owned and operated by Robert H. “Bobby” Lackner and his daughter, Lisa Lackner, at 2451 Pablo Kisel Blvd.
Bobby Lackner, whose grandfather R.L. opened Brownsville’s first Lackner’s in 1907 at 1110 E. Elizabeth St., said he’s 74 and ready to travel. Plus, business isn’t what it used to be — mostly due to the evaporation of customers from Mexico, he said.
“The Mexican business has been a factor,” Lackner said. “It used to represent about half our business. I don’t see it coming back.”
He blames the violence, kidnappings and extortion across the border, a situation he doesn’t see improving anytime soon. But Lackner, born and raised in Brownsville, also remembers the good times quite vividly.
“I grew up in the ’50s and ’60s,” he said. “I remember the cotton boom and how Mexico began to really become a factor in our business, which it wasn’t up until about the ’50s. We’ve seen some great years in Brownsville. Brownsville has been a good town for my family. I dearly love Brownsville.”
The Lackners are among the last of the city’s old merchant families, with a business model that has served them well over more than a century but that has become increasingly rare in modern times.
“We’re the conventional old-time jewelry store in the fact that we do all our repairs in house,” Lackner said. “We’ve got a very good jeweler. We’ve got a watchmaker who’s been with us for 50 years. These are craftsmen. It’s harder to find these kind of people.”
Lisa Lackner said she and her dad are also thankful for their loyal customers from Harlingen, South Padre Island and elsewhere around the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Nothing is definite yet, though Lackner may continue the business online once the brick-and-mortar operation is gone, she said.
Bobby Lackner said the store plans to go out with a bang in the form of a big customer-appreciation sale that started in late June.
“I have a lot of my old suppliers over the years, very good companies,” he said. “They’re going to send us some goods, and what we’re going to do is heavy discounts, and it will be our last hurrah.”
And while it’s sad to call it quits, Lackner is looking forward to the next chapter of his life.
“There comes a time where things change, so now what we have to do, we have to downsize, take it easy, spend a little more time traveling,” he said. “This is a great country, and there’s so many places to go see. My wife and I, we plan to do some traveling.”