After Decades in Business in Kearney, Franca Holds Retirement Sale | Local News
By MARY JANE SKALA Hub Editor
KEARNEY — A longtime downtown business is saying goodbye with a retirement sale this weekend.
Franca’s jewelry making and repair at 2019 Central Ave., owned by Franca Fullmer, closed in late July after nearly 40 years in business.
Wendy Spencer, owner of Sort My Stuff, will organize and host Franca’s retirement sale from noon to 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Bison Room in the Fairgrounds Extension Building of the Buffalo County at 3607 N Av.
Shoppers can choose from thousands of pieces of gold, silver, turquoise, pearls, crystal, ivory and genuine diamonds, as well as vintage necklaces, brooches, rings, earrings. ears, hats, trinket boxes, jewelry holders, belts, handbags and watches.
“There are a lot of random sets, with very unique pieces,” Spencer said.
People also read…
Fullmer is an accomplished goldsmith who started her jewelry business 50 years ago when she began buying jewelry at estate sales. She learned the intricacies of jewelry making and repairing and eventually opened her own business.
“I broke my back and decided it was time to sell the store. Maybe it meant someone kicked me in the ass,” Fullmer said.
Her husband Louie died two years ago. “My neighbor helped empty 47 boxes of real jewelry. The sale will help get rid of the jewelry I salvaged.
The store, which was full of unique pieces, reflected her colorful life. Born Franca Ploog in Italy, Franca’s parents separated when she was five, so her mother took her on the train to start a new life in Germany.
One day Fullmer looked out the window and saw the world blanketed in white. “I had heard people talk about snow, but I never knew what snow was,” she says. “I was cold and shivering. I kept thinking I had a bad dream, but I pinched myself and the snow was still there. ”
She came to the United States in 1962 with a family for whom she worked as a nanny and housekeeper. They lived at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, then moved to Colorado Springs.
Later she worked as a cook at the Shamrock Cafe in North Platte, “but I didn’t like North Platte. If you’re not a railroad worker or a truck driver, you don’t belong,” she said.
On weekends, she would drive to Wood River or Grand Island to look for a new job. On one such trip, she stopped at the Dairy Queen in Kearney, picked up a newspaper, and saw an advert for a cook in a downtown cafe. She quickly applied and got the job. In 1970, she married Fullmer.
She started her business buying jewelry at estate sales and learned as she progressed. Eventually, she purchased the Central Avenue building and opened Franca’s jewelry making and repair business. She sold jewelry five days a week and did psychic readings there on Saturdays.
“I loved making jewelry. I am a goldsmith by profession. People still call me now to do jewelry repair,” she said. “I had a pretty good reputation for being honest, fair and square.”
This summer, she closed the business and put her building up for sale. A real estate agent hired Spencer to clear out Franca’s jewelry store in late July. Spencer has been doing this kind of work since late 2019, when she opened Sort My Stuff to organize the belongings of people who were downsizing.
She had two weeks to clear Fullmer’s space. Two weeks ago, she held a sale to empty the tools and machinery from the garage and basement. During this time, she separated the merchandise from the jewelry store and loaded it into trailers, with jewelry sales items in one trailer and sundries in another.
She moved most of the jewelry into her two-car garage and began the grueling process of sorting it, appraising it, and putting it in bins. “When I started, there was no room to move in my garage,” she said.
As she worked, she placed a small price tag on each piece. “I do all the pricing, but Franca had pricing on the items, so I used that as a guideline,” Spencer said. The filled bins have been loaded onto a trailer which will be heading to the fairgrounds this week.
Spencer will leave her job as a warehouse manager at Anderson Brothers this week to handle Franca’s retirement sale. It will take him three days to set up the three-day event. She received “tremendous help” from others, she said.
“Doing a job like this can be difficult. It has been a person’s livelihood and life. Where to start ? It’s overwhelming, but what makes it easier is that I’m not emotionally attached to any of it,” she said.
Spencer, 39, noted that she was only two years old when Fullmer opened Franca’s Jewelry. “It has been such a learning opportunity. I’m not a big jeweler and I’m learning a lot,” she said.