Longtime Napa jewelry store owner loves making and selling ‘beautiful’ things | Business

Lynn Imbier

River Park Jewelers’ owner Lucia Shook has worked in retail jewelry for 45 years.

“I started at Meyers Jewelry in Vallejo,” said Shook. “That’s where I met Bob Moelk and came to work with him at his Napa store, River Park Jewelers, in 1997.”

Moelk was very easy to work for, said Shook.

“When he said he was going to retire, I didn’t know what to do because employers mostly want to hire young people. I asked him if he would sell me the store. He talked to his wife, Claudia, and sold me the store and I’ve owned it since 2005.”

Shook decided not to change the homey nature of the store.

“People don’t like change,” she said. “It’s not fancy, but clean. We welcome everybody, sit down and talk to them. If it wasn’t for my repeat customers, I wouldn’t still be here. They’re very nice and I’m very grateful for all they do.”

When she first took over the business, she asked her sister, Maria Pacheco, to come help her for a few months. Pacheco is still there, smiling and helping customers, 17 years later.

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“I love putting things together, like beautiful necklaces,” said Shook. “I first draw out the design on paper and have a person who then makes it. I only sell designs that I like.”

Besides selling fine and costume jewelry, River Park Jewelers does a lot of repairs.

“We don’t take anything we don’t think we can fix,” she said.

“We do it for a fair price. An older gentleman was in the other day, and he’d broken the crown of his watch. The crown is at the top of the stem, where you wind your watch. For years, he’d been winding it with a back-and-forth motion, instead of one way,” she described.

By the way, “I tell people all the time not to wind their watches that way,” she noted.

This man’s watch was vintage, “and I knew we’d never find a new crown to match the broken one. At the last minute, I looked through a box I have of old watch parts and was surprised when I found the exact match. I was so happy to help him.”

She didn’t charge for the service.

“I know most of the people who come in here; they’re all hard workers, like me. As long as I have enough to live, I don’t need a lot of money.”

As far as jewelry trends, Shook keeps up with the styles through her suppliers.

“For engagement rings, people always want oval or princess cut. If I don’t have what they want in stock, I can get it. Diamond anniversary bands that go above or below the wedding ring are popular. Tennis bracelets are another favorite present.”

In the last few years, laboratory-grown diamonds have taken the business by storm. Because prices for natural mined diamonds rose 11 times in 2021, according to “Instore,” a trade publication for the jewelry industry, more consumers are finding the lab-grown stones to be an acceptable alternative. Lab-grown diamonds can be priced as low as half the price of mined stones.

“Yes, we sell them,” said Shook. “They’re very popular now. It’s hard to explain exactly how they’re made, but those stones test as if they were mined diamonds. They look awesome and they’ll always have value.”

Any stone purchased from River Park Jewelers can be traded up.

“If a person buys a ring from me and decides to get a different stone, I’ll always give them the credit in the same amount they paid.”

Does she have advice for prospective grooms?

“Guys come in and tell me a high price for what they want, but you can’t go backwards. I explain to them that they should know their budget and go from there; start lower and go higher. I like to work with younger people. Usually, the couple comes in together to choose the ring. As I said, if she’s not happy with the style, I’ll exchange it.”

“Sometimes we educate them on the four C’s: cut, clarity, color and carat (size). As long as it’s nice and clear, you can get it or go larger.”

Pendants are popular birthday gifts, as are earrings. Shook has advice there, too.

“Long ago, I was given advice that I pass on to others. When you give someone a gift, have them unwrap it in front of you. Look at their face, not the gift, when they open it. Their expression will tell you if they like it. I’ve been lucky in that most people are happy with their presents.”

Does she have a favorite personal piece of jewelry?

“I have an 18-carat cross that I wear. My favorite used to be rings, but I can’t wear them anymore,” she said and chuckled. “My sister loves rings, too, and wears lots of them.”

River Park Jewelers often has sales on major holidays; the most popular are Valentine’s Day and Christmas. Shook said she’d rather give a discount to a customer and make a little money on a piece than waiting three months without selling it.

As with most businesses, COVID-19 took its toll on River Park Jewelers.

“I was closed for two and a half months. I worried, but I prayed, and I got a loan. I feel blessed and grateful and don’t take anything for granted. Most of all, I believe in Jesus; he’s never failed me.”

“I’m not a proud person, but I am proud that I’m an honest person. You reap what you sow. I’m happy to have the trust of my customers.”

River Park Jewelers is open Tuesday through Saturday at 1433 W. Imola Ave., Napa, 707-254-7500, riverparkjewelers.com.

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