Steve Wulff grew up on a ranch in a remote area of Wallowa County, so to pass the time, he collected and studied coins, minerals, gems and insects.
“Living in the middle of nowhere, you had to keep yourself occupied,” Wulff said.
His hobbies turned into his business, Mid-Valley Gems & Jewelry. The store has offered residents treasures such as silver rings with emeralds, antique cameo brooches, Confederate money and Phoenician coins more than 2,000 years old.
However, the last day for the Albany store, which buys and sells items, will be on Christmas Eve.
Wulff, 66, said he has sold the building off of Pacific Boulevard and will be retiring.
“I’ll probably work a little bit, go to the coin shows and stuff like that,” the Oregon State University graduate said. He added that he also could end up operating a smaller shop on a part-time basis.
Wulff said customers can be shocked by how much their jewelry and other items can be worth.
Sometimes that’s a pleasant surprise, and sometimes residents find out that grandma’s large “diamond” ring is a fake.
Wulff said that his favorite part of owning Mid-Valley Gems & Jewelry has been working with the customers, but he also likes finding unusual items. The hardest part of collecting can be letting go of such rarities.
“I think of all the all the coins I’ve sold through the years that I’d love to have back. And jewelry. I’ve sold some jewelry that was really unique and impossible to replace,” he added.
Wulff isn’t sure, but he thinks the business has been in existence in some form or another since 1977 or 1978. He purchased the shop with a friend in 1983, and bought his business partner out in 1985.
Jewelry used to be the main draw for the store, but it has been less important since the recession. After 2008, people have been interested in putting funds into silver and gold themselves. With the economy getting better, jewelry sales have been picking up again.
Wulff said people shouldn’t buy jewelry as an investment, however.
“You buy it to enjoy it,” added retired shop worker Donna Forrest, who still helps out at the store.
“Find something that’s well-made,” Wulff added.
Mid-Valley Gems & Jewelry, 1434 Pacific Blvd. SE, is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. For more information, go to www.MidValleyGems or call 541-926-8410. (That phone number can be used to contact Wulff even after the store closure.)