February 3, 2004 > Newark Jewelry Center
Newark Jewelry Center
Passing through the doorway of the Newark Jewelry Center takes visitors into a different world. Time has stopped here. There is a sense of ease and old fashion service that pervades the air. Owners Richard, Jr. ("Rich") and Lorena Ippolito are helping customers at one counter while Dick Ippolito - Rich's father and patriarch of the business - helps others. Rich and Lorena's daughter, Bronwyn, attends customers browsing at a case filled with estate jewelry and "Chappy," the Ippolito's pet dog patiently waits for attention while watching the action. People are relaxed as they discuss and admire jewelry, and gaze at cases of rings, necklaces, earrings and estate jewelry. Technicians busily work on customer orders in full view. All the repair and fabrication work is done in the open and easily seen by customers - no back rooms here!
Walls are filled with sports memorabilia and when asked about this wealth of sports history, Rich takes a moment from helping customers to confirm that he has a hobby gone wild. There are autographed pictures, jerseys, bats, etc. from a plethora of sports personalities. This is a veritable sports museum! Dick Ippolito, now semi-retired, but often found helping out at the store, initially questioned his son's decision to move this large collection to the store. He wondered how customers would respond. It has worked out well. Rich says men who previously were reluctant to accompany their wives to the store, happily spend their time looking at baseball and football mementos along with Harley-Davidson craftwork (Rich and Lorena are big H-D fans!). He laughs and says, "They are often the ones asking to stay a bit longer." This is definitely not a typical jewelry store!
The Ippolito family has been in the Jewelry business for over 25 years in Newark. Prior to opening the Jewelry Center, Dick Ippolito worked with jewelry, primarily as a hobby, in his garage on Washington Boulevard in Fremont. He eventually opened a small storefront from his garage and then moved to separate store near the Irvington five corners on Washington Boulevard. In the late '70's, Dick relocated the business to Newark where he opened and operated a pawn shop in Old Newark on Thornton Boulevard for four years.
The final move to the Newark Jewelry Center at its present location came in 1981. Dick says, "Total time in the Tri-Cities in business is 40 years!" Before settling into the jewelry business full time, this busy family was running a gas station, a fleet of tow trucks, two radiator shops simultaneously. Jewelry was always in the background as a serious hobby and small business and eventually became the successor to automotive repair and service.
Rich worked in the family's radiator shop in Hayward for ten years, but the physical wear and tear of mechanical work and a reaction to toxic chemicals at the shop convinced him to seek a new career. He decided to follow his father's interest in jewelry and attended the Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts in San Francisco to learn the trade. After graduation from the academy, Rich joined his father at the pawn shop and four years later, moved with the business to their present location in the Newark Square Shopping Center at Thornton Avenue and Cedar Boulevard. Rich considers the Newark Jewelry Center as a "maverick" store. "There is nothing else like it!"
Rich asks, "How many jewelry stores can you go to where you can sit down next to the jeweler and watch the work being done right in front of you? Sizing rings or setting diamonds, right in front of you?" Jewelry repairs are done out in the open where customers can see what is going on. "A big plus," says Rich "is that people with a valuable piece of jewelry that needs repair or sizing can make an appointment and watch as the work is done." Any question of how or where items are being handled is removed.
The range of service spans the full spectrum of jewelry and precious stones from diamonds of any value, including black diamonds, yellow or white gold or platinum; both manufacture and repair. Along with high profile repairs and creations, many customers come in for watch batteries, restringing pearl necklaces, engraving and purchase and setting of semi-precious stones.
An unusual side of the Newark Jewelry Center is the fabrication of decorative badges for police officers who want something a bit different for their wallet or a spouse. Word of mouth about these items has resulted in quite a few orders from local officers and others throughout California. Rich says that some K-9 officers order custom badges for their four-legged partners from the Newark Jewelry Center.
The Newark Jewelry Center does a "big business" in previously owned Rolex watches. "We have a certified Rolex watch repair technician on the premises. Nothing is sent out. All repairs are done here." Manufacturing one-of-a-kind pieces is also a large portion of their business. One case holds watches and a custom gold watch face with diamonds. Watch faces can be measured, a custom replacement manufactured and then, replaced in front of the customer to create a singular timepiece. As an example, Rich displays his watch - its dial has been replaced by a custom made gold dial, engraved with a Harley-Davidson logo. He says everything was done in the store by their jewelers. "We do not send any repairs, engraving or manufacturing off site."
When trying to define the store, Rich says it reflects his personality. He says that the store is a place where people can be assured of no stress, pressure or gimmicks. "It's the real deal. We are family and we get along with each other. We want our customers to feel welcome and relaxed when they come to visit. I love what I do and look forward to coming in every day."