Wade’s jewelry set is closing in Horseheads

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HORSEHEADS — After 16 years running Hanover Square’s only jewelry store, Barbara Tighe-Skorczewski has decided to retire.

If all goes well, she says, her last day in business at Wade’s Jewelry & Gifts, 109 W. Franklin St. in Horseheads, will be Jan. 15.

But what a race it has been.

Tighe-Skorczewski’s mother, also named Barbara, started working at Wade’s Jewelry in 1957. That was the same year the store opened. Twenty-seven years later, after working as an accountant and then as a saleswoman, Barbara Tighe took over the business.

For the next 14 years, until her death in 1998, Tighe successfully operated the business at a time when women-owned businesses were rare. Barbara Tighe-Skorczewski, the eldest daughter, took over the business after the death of her mother.

At the time, Tighe-Skorczewski owned a consulting business in Maryland for gas station dealers and major oil companies. But when Big Oil began to consolidate, it realized it was time to exit the industry.

Tighe-Skorczewski admitted that when she started in the jewelry business, customers knew more than she did.

“I am the eldest of six children and we all had our own businesses,” she said. “When we were younger we all got involved, but when I took over the business it took me about four years to learn about sales and repair.”

While Tighe-Skorczewski was learning, she was also evaluating Hanover Square’s potential to support small businesses – which led her to get involved with the Horseheads Merchants Association.

“I considered closing the business when my mother passed away because I didn’t know how to go about it. I was still running my consulting business, but vendors were advising me to stay open,” Tighe-Skorczewski said. “I also felt a sense of commitment. There were a lot of empty display cases in the square and I didn’t want to put the last nail in the coffin.

Tighe-Skorczewski said there were other factors in his decision to keep the business open – primarily the growing number of vehicles passing through Hanover Square each day and customer loyalty.

“Plus, there were also so many other communities that were being restored and revitalized in 1999,” she said.

At that time, recalls former village mayor Pat Gross, small communities like Horseheads were heavy users of federal block grant funds for community development.

In the case of Horseheads, Gross said, some of the funding went to revitalize Hanover Square.

“Barbara showed a lot of interest in bringing new businesses to the square and encouraging events and festivities that would help local residents know what was in the square,” Gross said. “She has always been prepared to be very active in the Horseheads Merchants Association.”

Tighe-Skorczewski served two terms as president of the merchants’ association, the same position her mother once held.

“We held the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Holly Days and Customer Appreciation Days,” said the association’s Tighe-Skorczewski.

But the real purpose of the group, she said, was to create a sense of camaraderie among local business owners.

Tighe-Skorczewski said there has been some interest in taking over the store space – she owns the building. But she wants to make sure the next tenant’s business is stable.

Then it’s off to enjoy some free time, including visiting his three daughters who live in Maryland, California and Massachusetts.

“It’s for them that I really want to be remembered,” she said. “They are my claim to fame.”

Follow G. Jeffrey Aaron on Twitter @JeffreyAaron4.

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