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    Tuesday, March 21, 2023

    With owner’s retirement, oldest downtown Norwich retail shop to close Dec. 30

    Jackie Quercia, right, talks to customer Mark Perkins, of Norwich, about coins Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022, while he shops for coin collecting supplies in her shop Norwich Coin and Jewelry. Quercia is retiring and closing her shop after 40 years in business. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    One of the window displays at Norwich Coin and Jewelry Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022, Owner Jackie Quercia is retiring and closing her shop after 40 years in business. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Jackie Quercia behind the counter Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022, at her shop Norwich Coin and Jewelry. Quercia is retiring and closing her shop after 40 years in business. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Norwich Coin and Jewelry on Franklin St in Norwich, shown Dec. 15, 2022. Owner Jackie Quercia is retiring and closing her shop after 40 years in business. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Norwich ― From her vantage point at her Norwich Rare Coin & Jewelry store at 35 Franklin St., Jackie Quercia has seen traffic first go one way, then two ways, through stop signs and red lights and now a new roundabout at the Main Street junction.

    During her 37 years at that spot, she has befriended customers and homeless people, volunteered for the Norwich Winter Festival Committee and for committees working to improve downtown.

    “Things are good down here,” she said. “They are.”

    On Dec. 30, Quercia will retire and close the longest standing retail shop in downtown Norwich.

    “I know that last day when I leave it’s going to be sad,” Quercia said. “I know it is. But I won’t stay sad long.”

    Her husband and partner, Peter Quercia, died Dec. 10, 2020 after a long illness, and Jackie said she is ready to retire, but not disappear from the scene.

    Quercia plans to volunteer for the Norwich Community Development Corp. and for the Greater Norwich Area Chamber of Commerce. She hopes to volunteer at Mystic Aquarium, because she really wants to feed the penguins. And next week, she will join Norwich Rotary.

    “So, I’m not going anywhere,” she said.

    For the past few weeks, longtime customers have been stopping in to say goodbye, many with hugs and tears, she said. One customer from Stonington has been buying everything from coins to collectibles since the Quercias opened their first shop in Groton 40 years ago. He often brought her flowers, she said.

    “It’s been a fast 40 years,” she said. “I want to say ‘Thank you’ to my customers, because that’s the reason I’m here. I wouldn’t have been here 40 years without them.”

    Coin cases in her shop are now void of the valuable, desirable coins, with just common items and stacks of coin collecting books remaining. One dealer bought all of her remaining high-quality costume jewelry and other antiques dealers have combed through her items and bought in bulk.

    Antique China sets and glassware remain on the shelves. Quercia said she will donate what’s left to Goodwill. The front display windows remain in holiday décor. NCDC Executive Assistant Lee Ann D’Ambrosio has used Quercia’s holiday themed antiques to decorate the windows with antique dolls, toys, Christmas decorations and colorful items.

    Even the glass display cases, shelves and two large floor safes have local history connections. Quercia has sold one large floor safe that came from the former Vality’s Department Store in Ledyard, as did many of her shelves and display cases. “I loved Vality’s,” Quercia said. “That was a great department store.”

    The largest floor safe will stay put. Quercia said it was in the store when she moved in 37 years ago and weighs 8,000 pounds. It was moved there by a crane from the former Reid & Hughes Department Store a short distance away on Main Street in downtown Norwich.

    Quercia rejects the perception that downtown is unsafe because of the homeless population. Quercia greeted everyone she met on the street and developed relationships and friendships with many of them. When someone told her a person was in the hospital, she would visit them.

    One man was on Franklin Street so often, Quercia called him “the mayor of Franklin Street.” She noticed he never wore a winter coat no matter how cold it got.

    About five years ago, she mentioned this to a friend who was getting rid of a “beautiful” full-length men’s winter coat. Quercia saw “the mayor” and called him into the shop.

    “It was just before Christmas, and he tried the coat on, and it fit like a glove,” she recalled. “And he said, “This is the first Christmas present I’ve ever received in my entire life.’ And he had tears in his eyes, and so did I.”

    The man, who was in his 50s at the time, died sometime later.

    She recalled another incident decades earlier that rocked downtown. During the time when Norwich Hospital routinely discharged patients with mental illness with little more than instructions on how to take medicines, one man made his way to the top floor of the Shannon Building on Main Street and jumped off.

    Quercia still is shaken by the memory, although she did not witness the event. She recalled a newspaper editorial blasting the state and comparing the practice to releasing cows to a paved parking lot and telling them to eat.

    Quercia also watched downtown grow and improve. Several years ago, the city finally addressed the confusing maze of one-way streets at the Franklin, Main and Bath intersections. First Franklin was made two-way. In September of 2021, the city turned the Main-Franklin Street junction traffic triangle into a single-lane roundabout.

    “I love the roundabout! I adore that thing. I love it. I’m not crazy about six roundabouts on West Main Street, but that’s a different story,” she said, referring to a controversial plan by the state Department of Transportation to reconstruct West Main Street-Route 82. The state has since announced it was reassessing the project and will propose a new design.

    “Customers like the road two ways,” she said of Franklin Street. “It’s not as convoluted as it used to be, and I haven’t heard any complaints about parking. There’s plenty of parking.”


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