BIDDEFORD — On Wednesday, customers were coming in and out of Youland’s Jewelers.

One women wanted her watch repaired; another was buying wedding rings.

Both were saddened to learn that the store would soon be going out of business.

“Where am I going to get a watch battery? Where am I going to get my ring polished?” asked Annie Levine of Saco. She said she usually visits the store several times a year.

Barbara Burgess of Saco, who will be marrying Doug Ellis next year, was looking over the rings she was purchasing from the store.

She said she chose to purchase her rings from the small Main Street shop because “my family supports small businesses.”

“I’ve always been happy with the service” at Youland’s, she said, adding “they have a very friendly staff.”

While Youland’s has a loyal customer base, store owner Walter Buczacz said after selling his current merchandise, he’ll be closing the store, probably in early 2015, and retiring.

“I didn’t really plan to retire,” he said, but the economic downtown of 2008 and an aging clientele have taken a toll.

Heart of Biddeford Executive Director Delilah Poupore said she’s happy for Buczacz to have the opportunity to retire, but also saddened, because the man, who has always been one of the first to volunteer for any downtown project, will no longer be a daily presence on Main Street.

The Youland’s name has been a familiar one on Main Street for 100 years or more.

Buczacz’s clerk Rachel Smith Gagne, who grew up in the area, said she remembers 50 years ago when Main Street Biddeford was hopping.

Youland’s was one of a number of retail stores that were always busy.

But as the city’s textile mills closed and jobs left the area, so, too, did many of the customers, and then the downtown businesses.

Youland’s Jewelers was one of the last to remain.

The jewelry store was proceeded by a Youland’s department store. Later, there was a shoe store, and 52 years ago, Roger Labbe opened the jewelry store.

The different branches had different owners, said Buczacz, and were located in various parts of the building.

The area where the department store was located is now part of Biddeford Savings.

Buczacz came to work for Labbe about 31 years ago.

As luck would have it, he fell in love, and married the boss’s daughter.

The shop is still a family business.

Anna Buczacz, Walter’s daughter, works at the business part-time. His daughter-in-law, Michelle “Molly” Leeman Buczacz, is the store manager.

Other staff members are not related, but Gagne, Aline Alley and Dianne LeBrun said they all feel like family.

All agreed that they will be sad to see the store close.

“I’m definitely going to miss the people,” said Gagne. “The people have been very kind.”

Walter Buczacz said it will be strange after 30-plus years to no longer be operating his store. But, he said, he’ll keep busy with his hobbies like photography and gardening. He also hinted that his working days may not be behind him.

But despite the loss of this downtown institution, area residents can make out if they take advantage of the store’s closing sales.

Along with a piece of jewelry, they’ll be buying a memento of Biddeford’s history.

Youland’s Jewelers is located at 238 Main St. The store hours will be varied throughout December. For details, call 284-6528 or visit the Youland’s Jewelers Facebook page.

— Staff Writer Dina Mendros can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 324 or [email protected]

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