Paul Stein (at left) and Odysseus Tsarouhis, co-owners of Reichman Jewelers, will be closing the store that has been at 4439 W. 95th St. In Oak Lawn since 1984. (Photo by Dermot Connolly )

Paul Stein (at left) and Odysseus Tsarouhis, co-owners of Reichman Jewelers, will be closing the store that has been at 4439 W. 95th St. In Oak Lawn since 1984. (Photo by Dermot Connolly )

Reichman Jewelers to close Oak Lawn store

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July shooting of co-owner was deciding factor

By Dermot Connolly

Violent robberies at their own store and others in the area have led the longtime owners of Reichman Jewelers in Oak Lawn to close their business, which has been located at 4439 W. 95th St., since 1984.

Reichman Jewelers dates back to 1908, and was at 4949 S. Ashland Ave., in the Back of the Yards neighborhood in Chicago before co-owners Paul Stein and Odysseus “Odyss” Tsarouhis decided to relocate to Oak Lawn.

“We’ve been partners since 1980,” said Stein, noting that they took over from his father, Al Stein, who had been with the business since 1935. The patriarch’s photo still has pride of place in the store, hanging on the wall above the main counter.

Reichman, which has been serving generations of loyal customers, is not closing completely. But in January, the men plan to begin working out of a new, smaller location farther west on 95th Street, which will only be open by appointment.

A massive sale now offering 70 percent off practically all the merchandise in the store known for its impressive collection and variety of high-end jewelry has been drawing bigger crowds since Oct. 31, when the owners announced their plans to close the storefront on Jan. 13.

One couple who spent a long time chatting with Stein about old times while he helped them pick out a new ring, even asked whether the shelves along the wall were for sale.

“No, they are not,” he said with a smile.

“Most of our customers are from the South Side, so we don’t want to move away from them,” said Tsarouhis, noting that their exact new location will be revealed as soon as the leasing agreement is finalized.

“We planned to do this eventually, maybe in a year or two. But we decided to do it sooner because of what happened here and at other stores,” said Stein, adding that neither owner is ready to retire just yet.

On July 1, three armed robbers broke into the store, disarmed the security guard and began breaking into display cases. When Tsarouhis came out of the back room, he was shot twice, in the chest and right wrist.

Longtime employee Barbara Vencill witnessed it all.

“It was very traumatic,” said Vencill, who has worked for the company for 48 years. “You don’t ever expect to witness a shooting, especially of someone you love.”

“It’s not just people breaking in with baseball bats anymore,” said Stein, referring to what happened during an overnight burglary at the store last fall.

“It is not safe anymore. They put a gun to the security guard’s head. Thank God, they didn’t kill him,” said Tsarouhis, who still has a bullet in his chest, and some loss of feeling in his wrist. While he has almost fully recovered, it was touch and go for a while.

Being across the street from Advocate Christ Medical Center helped.

“As soon as I got there, I knew I would survive. But lying here on the floor, it was very uncertain,” he said.

The bullet in his chest will remain because it is about an inch from his heart, too close to remove safely.

Tsarouhis noted that other stores have been hit too, including a very similar Nov. 5 incident in Evergreen Park, which three men brandishing guns escaped after robbing Kay Jewelers at 9656 S. Western Ave., on a Saturday afternoon.

Just last month, a security guard was fatally shot at a jewelry store at River Oaks Mall in Calumet City. And in June, four men escaped with $180,000 in merchandise in a smash-and-grab robbery at the Kay Jewelers in Chicago Ridge Mall.

Aside from the increased prevalence of violence, the business partners who have both worked for Reichman since the 1970s, have many happy memories of the business.

“Oak Lawn and our customers from all over have been very good to us,” said Tsarouhis. “We have generations of people coming to us. The grandparents bought their wedding rings and other jewelry here, and then they send their children and their grandchildren, too.”

“The jewelry business is great. Neither of us is ready to retire just yet,” said Stein.

The co-owners don’t seem to have a moment to sit down, as customers new and old have been coming in to peruse and purchase rings, necklaces, pendants and glass trinkets for sale.

“We’re replenishing, but we are running out of things,” said Tsarouhis, who is anticipating a bigger than usual holiday season.

“Ordinarily, Black Friday isn’t a big day for jewelry buying and most small businesses. But this year will be different,” he said, adding that security precautions have been increased as well.

 

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