311 F Street • Eureka, CA 95501 • (707) 441-9244
New Business Sparkles in Old Town
Old Town Jewelers Celebrates First Anniversary
EUREKA, Nov. 8, 2011 Steve Johnson and Kirk Davis have always had a passion for jewelry. Johnson first started cutting gemstones when he was eight years old, after a teacher told him it was possible to “slice rocks like salami.” Davis began repairing jewelry at age 13, trained by his father, a goldsmith and watchmaker.
A year ago, with some eighty years of professional experience between them, the two men decided to team up and open a jewelry store together in Old Town Eureka.
Their business, Old Town Jewelers, located at 311 F Street in Eureka, is celebrating its one-year anniversary this week.
Despite launching deep in the recession last November, the business has been thriving. With Johnson specializing in original designs and custom jewelry, and Davis focusing on jewelry repair, a steady stream of people comes through the door.
“We’re gratified that even in these difficult economic times, our workload is increasing every month,” said Johnson. While the young business has not yet done any advertising or marketing other than hosting Arts Alive shows, the combination of a storefront location in Old Town, the jewelers’ professional reputations, and word of mouth are drawing in more and more customers.
Both of the business partners are well known in the Humboldt County jewelry community, each having worked behind the scenes for twenty-odd years.
“Last year we decided it was a good time to gain creative control over our work, from the carpeting on up,” said Johnson. “One of the things that’s unique about our store is that the customer has direct contact with the person doing the work; there’s no salesperson between us. It’s a real thrill to see the look in someone’s eyes when we show them their jewelry and they say, ‘Wow! This turned out even better than I expected!’”
Johnson, 50, is a graduate gemologist, meaning he has earned a degree from the Gemological Institute of America and is qualified to identify and grade diamonds and other gemstones.
“People can be confident that if they buy from a graduate gemologist, the stone is as represented,” Johnson explained. “It provides an additional level of assurance when people are buying large, expensive stones.”
Working mostly in gold with diamonds or colored gems, Johnson designs earrings, necklaces and rings, especially engagement and wedding rings. He often works with customers’ sentimental gemstones and offers liberal trade-ins on old gold jewelry.
Local customer Ann Divers-Stamnes brought her mother’s old diamond ring in to Old Town Jewelers, with the idea of changing the setting.
“When I went to Steve with the ring, he immediately intuited not only what I wanted to do in changing the setting but also that it was an emotional event for me,” she related. Johnson suggested creating the new ring using the gold from the original ring and her mother’s wedding band, for a result Divers-Stamnes calls stunning.
“Steve is a creative genius with a huge heart,” she said. “His designs are elegant perfection. I’ve met a lot of gemologists in my life, but I have never met one who has his unerring sense of style and his understanding that jewelry is about more than simple beauty; it’s also about memory and connections with those we love. He honors all three in his work.”
Another customer, Amy Bohner, recalled, “When my husband and I decided to elope in 2004, we knew we had to let Steve Johnson in on our little plan.” She and her then-fiancé brought Johnson some dog-eared magazines but did not have a clear vision of the rings they wanted.
After working with the couple, Johnson was able to take the diamonds from a 1937 wedding ring that once belonged to Bohner’s grandmother and incorporate them into custom rings for the couple.
“My ring is the most precious thing I own,” Bohner said. “I have had dozens of people stop me over the years to ask about it and I always happily refer them to Steve.”
Yet another customer, Christina McPherson, said, “Steve Johnson’s work is remarkably unique and of superior quality. I own half a dozen of his masterpieces. I cherish every one and I know that some day my children will love them as much as I do.”
Johnson summed up, “I like to think that I’m creating heirlooms for people’s future.” There is an extensive portfolio of his designs at http://stevenvictordesign.com.
Kirk Davis explained what drove him to start Old Town Jewelers: “You’ve got to take chances in life. We opened the store because we wanted to take care of our customers they way they deserve.”
Davis, 56, grew up in San Jose, California, and his father owned a jewelry store in nearby Los Altos for thirty years. When his father needed another jeweler, he started training his teenaged son in the business.
“I really enjoyed it right from the startthat was my calling,” Davis recalled.
Over forty years later, Davis still loves the business. He offers the full range of jewelry repair, from replacing watch batteries on the spot or fixing someone’s favorite costume jewelry, all the way up to repairing platinum and diamond rings.
“I love to take people’s broken jewelry and fix it so they can wear it again; I like to make them happy,” Davis related. “I especially like to repair old family jewelry, to take grandma’s ring and make it so it can be worn again.”
Despite the recession, some needs are timeless. It seems there is still a healthy market for beautiful jewelry that will bring pleasure to generations to come.
For more information, call Old Town Jewelers at 441-9244, or drop by the store and talk to the owners.
Old Town Jewelers celebrates one-year anniversary
Grant Scott-Goforth/The Times-Standard
Posted: 11/15/2011 02:39:33 AM PST
Old Town Jewelers is celebrating its first year of business without fanfare, but that doesn't mean it's been a bust. Steve Johnson, who opened the business with fellow jeweler Kirk Davis, said he's happy with the growth of their two-man operation.
”From January to July, my business increased 20 percent each month,” said Johnson in a telephone interview. His specialty is custom design. He makes gold and platinum jewelry with gems from scratch or uses gems from antique jewelry that people want brought back to life. Davis focuses on jewelry repair. It's a partnership that covers all the bases of jewelry business.
Jewelry sales can be spotty during tough economic times, but Johnson says that high gold prices, dedicated customers and a desire for quality work helps. “What's keeping us alive is the bench -- being able to do work,” said Johnson. “If we were just selling jewelry, we'd be sunk.”
Johnson began working as a professional jeweler in 1975. His passion for crafting jewelry began at age 10, when he learned from a neighbor how to cut stones. He got a graduate gemologist degree because he wanted to open a retail shop, and it adds a level of assurance to people buying expensive gems.
Davis learned jewelry from his father. As a youth, he knew it was his calling, and now he specializes in jewelry repairs of all kinds. A lot of Davis' business comes from his reputation from years of local work.
Other than Arts Alive! showings, Old Town Jewelers does little to promote itself. They aren't planning any anniversary celebrations. They've relied on reputation and word-of-mouth. So far, it's working. The jewelry, attention to detail and friendliness speak for the business.
Old Town Jewelers is still in its beginning stages, but Johnson says it has plenty of room to grow. “When we have enough jewelry to fill our cases -- in three to five years -- we'll have a 50 percent larger showroom.”
Johnson likes the direct contact between jeweler and customer but acknowledges that at some point, they may have to hire a salesperson. “The ideal thing,” Johnson said, “would be to meet someone like us when we were kids: passionate.”
Kirk Davis Really Can Fix That
Step into Old Town Jewelers 311 F Street, Eureka, California and you will be met with a big smile by proprietor Kirk Davis. Got a piece of jewelry that needs a fixin’? You’re in good hands. Davis has been repairing jewelry, reading glasses, tea pots, candelabras, church crucifixes and other objects since he was fifteen years of age.
“My dad is a retired watchmaker and jeweler. I apprenticed at age thirteen in his shop. I learned to do repair work and discovered quick that it was not acceptable to be just good enough. It had to be done right. A story I tell is when I was seventeen I worked days on a mother’s ring. I was so proud of it. I showed it to my mentor, Randy, he took the ring from me, pried the stones out of their settings and then smashed the ring flat,” Davis recalled.
“I was so angry, I had to start all over again. The next time I handed the ring to Randy, I had made it perfect. Jewelry making and repair work is not for the faint at heart.”
Practice, patience, determination, and unwilling to admit defeat is what Davis brings to each job along with great pride. Every job that he works on, his reputation is on the line. He likes hearing the stories behind each job that he takes in. Customers are emotional about their jewelry, reading glasses, watches, and candelabras.
“I understand how my customers are attached to their pieces. I am sentimental too. I work on the same jeweler bench that I apprenticed at age thirteen. It is the bench that my dad sat at. My wish is that my granddaughter, Jazmin will one day want to apprentice with me. She has an interest. When she stops in the shop, I guide her hands with the torch I use to solder,” he said with a smile.
Davis and his partner, Steve Johnson, love their location in Old Town Eureka. This is their dream job owning their own business… a goal that Davis has wanted for twenty years.
“Steve and I are craftsmen. We strive for excellence. I like to have work dropped off a week in advance, but I will take in rush jobs. I get jobs that have been repaired elsewhere and often the owner of the piece is not happy with the results. I will make a customer happy with my repair work. That’s my slogan, “I can fix that.”
Old Town Jewelers is located at 311 F Street, Eureka, California.
Phone: 707-441-9244. Open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. From Thanksgiving to Christmas Old Town Jewelers is open seven days a week.