A business landmark

Published 9:19 am Thursday, October 13, 2011

Douglas Bros. celebrates 140 years

When Charles Bryant Douglas founded Douglas Bros. Jewelry in 1871, there was no way that he could have even begun to imagine that 140 years later a large group of well-wishers would be standing in Douglas Bros. Jewelry conversing with his great-grandson via video chat.

But, that’s the way it was on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011, when Douglas Bros. owner Scherr Qualls joined the celebration via Skype from Afghanistan where he is serving his country as a member of the nation’s finest.

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Qualls watched as a parade of city and state officials presented proclamations to the Douglas-Qualls family in appreciation for Douglas Bros. Jewelry’s long and storied history on the downtown square in Troy and as family members and friends added their heartfelt appreciation.

Proclamations were presented by Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford, Pike County Commission Chairman Homer Wright and State Rep. Allen Boothe. Ronda Walker, from Congresswoman Martha Roby’s office, presented an American Flag to the family that was flown over the U.S. Capitol in honor of the 140th anniversary of Douglas Bros.

Lunsford said that homegrown businesses are the backbone of a community.

“Business longevity is important to any downtown area and Douglas Bros. has been a mainstay in our downtown area for nearly a century and half. That is remarkable, especially in this day and time,” he said.

Kathy Sauer, Pike County Chamber of Commerce president, said the early establishment and continued commitment of the local business community is of significant importance in Troy.

“It is through their efforts, in the past as well as in the present, that Troy has remained prosperous and has the capabilities to provide our citizens with necessary goods and services,” Sauer said. “The Chamber board and its members congratulate the Douglas Bros. family on this milestone achievement and express our gratitude for their commitment to the Troy business community for 140 years and look forward to having Douglas Bros. on the square for another century and more.”

Douglas Bros. Jewelry was established in 1871 by Charles Bryant Douglas, who was then an aspiring young watch repairman in Troy.

He accepted the challenge of repairing a railroad engineer’s watch that watch repairmen in several large cities had been unsuccessful in their attempts.

Local lore is that, after many unsuccessful attempts at repairing the watch, Douglas knelt by his bed and asked for God’s help. That help came in a dream. Douglas repaired the prized watch and the railroad engineer sang his praises all up and down the Alabama-Midland Railroad line.

Around the turn of the century, two of Charles Douglas’ sons bought him out.

Bryant Ivy Douglas and Louis Scherr Douglas operated the business until B.I. Douglas’ death in 1938. Scherr Douglas was left to run the store by himself.

In 1939 his son in law Claude A. Qualls came to help out and stayed for more than 40 years.

At the death of Louis Scherr Douglas in 1968, the store was left to his daughter Mary Ivy Douglas Qualls and her husband, Claude, who had been made a partner some time earlier. In the 1970s, Claude and Mary Ivy made their sons, Claude Qualls, Jr. and Scherr part owners in the store.

As the store grew, it was relocated to 73 North Court Square from 79 Court Square.

At the death of Claude Qualls in 1993 and the deaths of Mary Ivy and Claude Jr. in 1999, Scherr Douglas Qualls was left to carry on the business.

Qualls and his wife, Gwen, daughter Ivy Qualls Witherington, sisters, Mary Qualls Loving and Jane Qualls Segars, have continued the tradition into the business’ 140th year … and counting.