Rings 'N Things closing after more than 30 years in business
By BY ALLISON MILES - AMILES@VICAD.COM
Feb. 25, 2013 at 9 p.m.
Updated Feb. 24, 2013 at 8:25 p.m.
Business was booming inside the shop at 1403 E. Airline Road as customers perused shelves, formed lines to pay and chatted with workers.
Still, it wasn't a typical day.
One area housed mostly empty shelving units, while "50 percent off" signs perched throughout the shop.
After more than 30 years in business, Rings 'N Things will soon close.
The jewelry and gift shop got its start in 1976 and was originally known as The Wicker Basket, co-owner Sandra Hiller said. It was 1983 when Troy and Nell Summerlin, two of the shop's partners, contacted her about buying in to the company.
Hiller partnered with Nell Summerlin to run the shop they renamed Rings 'N Things. At first she taught kindergarten in the mornings and worked in the store in the afternoons. Eventually, she worked full time in the store.
Things progressed a step further in 2006, when Nell Summerlin, the business partner Hiller described as "beautiful on the inside and outside," died.
At that point, Hiller and her husband, Dan Hiller, took full ownership.
The job was always a perfect fit for Hiller, a self-proclaimed "people person."
"I love people. I love to talk," she said from the shop's back room. "And the customers are what have really made this business."
Through the years, she added, the store had just six employees and never fired one.
She said her favorite aspect of business ownership was getting to know the families who frequented the shop. Parents shopped with their young children, and eventually those children came in with their own families.
"We're probably on three generations now," Dan Hiller said.
Mother-daughter duo Lucy and Melissa Swanger were two such customers.
The Swanger family moved to Victoria in 1977 and has shopped at the store virtually ever since. Melissa Swanger continued shopping even after moves to California and Austin.
On Monday, they went in for final purchases and a chance to say goodbye.
"I don't think you'll find a store like this in Victoria anymore," Lucy Swanger said. "This is such a unique find."
Another longtime customer, JoAnn Swanson, said she would miss the Rings 'N Things people and quality items once the shop closes. From now on, she said, she'll likely do more of her shopping in Houston.
Still, she said, she understands the couple's need for a break.
"My dad had a business, so I know it really is a lot of work," she said. "But we really hate to see them go."
The owners originally planned to close Thursday, but said they've extended the date into next week. Now, all items are discounted and store fixtures are for sale.
Looking ahead, the Hillers admitted retirement will mean change - but positive change. They said they plan to spend time with their grandchildren, donate time to their church and might even consider travel.
"It's time," Dan Hiller said of the chance to relax. "We're both in our 70s. It's time."
And, although his wife agreed - and said she was at peace with the decision - she said she hoped to find a way to fill her time.
"Get back with me in a couple of months," she said with a laugh. "Then I can say whether I made the right choice."