River Park Jewelers owner Lucia Shook has been in the jewelry business for 45 years.
“I started at Meyers Jewelry in Vallejo,” Shook said. “That’s where I met Bob Moelk and came to work with him at his Napa store, River Park Jewelers, in 1997.”
It was very easy to work for Moelk, Shook said.
“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 the store to me. He spoke to his wife, Claudia, and sold me the store and I have owned it since 2005.”
Shook decided not to change the intimate nature of the store.
“People don’t like change,” she says. “It’s not luxurious, but clean. We welcome everyone, sit down and talk with them. If it wasn’t for my regular customers, I wouldn’t be here yet. They are very nice and I am very grateful to them for everything they do.
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When she took over the business, she asked her sister, Maria Pacheco, to come and help her for a few months. Pacheco is still there, smiling and helping customers, 17 years later.
“I love putting things together, like beautiful necklaces,” Shook said. “I draw the design on paper first and then have a person do it. I only sell designs that I like.
In addition to selling fine and costume jewelry, River Park Jewelers does a lot of repairs.
“We don’t take anything that we don’t think we can fix,” she said.
“We do it at a fair price. An older gentleman had come the other day, and he had broken the crown of his watch. The crown sits at the top of the stem, where you wind your watch. For years he would roll it back and forth, instead of in a direction,” she said.
By the way, “I tell people all the time not to wind their watch that way,” she noted.
This man’s watch was vintage, “and I knew we would never find a new crown to match the broken one. At the last minute, I looked in a box I had some old watch parts and I was surprised when I found the exact match. I was so happy to help.
She did not charge for the service.
“I know most people who come here; they are all hard workers, like me. As long as I have enough to live on, I don’t need a lot of money.
When it comes to jewelry trends, Shook follows styles through its suppliers.
“For engagement rings, people always want an 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 gift.
In recent years, lab-grown diamonds have taken the business by storm. Because prices for mined natural diamonds have increased 11-fold in 2021, according to “Instore,” a trade publication for the jewelry industry, more and more consumers are finding lab-grown stones an acceptable alternative. Lab-grown diamonds can be sold for as low as half the price of mined stones.
“Yes, we sell them,” Shook said. “They are very popular now. It is difficult to explain exactly how they are made, but these stones are tested as if they were mined diamonds. They look awesome and they will always have value.
Any stone purchased from River Park Jewelers can be exchanged.
“If a person buys a ring from me and decides to buy another stone, I will always give them the same amount they paid for.”
Does she have any advice for future brides?
“Guys come and tell me a high price for what they want, but you can’t go back. I explain to them that they have to know their budget and go from there; start lower and go higher. I like working with young people. Usually the couple comes together to choose the ring. Like I said, if she’s not happy with the style, I’ll swap it.
“Sometimes we educate them on the four Cs: cut, clarity, color and carat (size). As long as it’s nice and clear, you can get it or enlarge it.
Pendants are popular birthday gifts, as are earrings. Shook also has tips there.
“A long time ago, I was given advice that I pass on to others. When you give someone a gift, ask them to 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 was lucky because most people are happy with their gifts.
Does she have a personal favorite piece of jewelry?
“I have an 18-karat cross that I wear. My favorite was rings, but I can’t wear them anymore,” she laughed. “My sister loves rings too and wears a lot of them.”
River Park Jewelers often holds sales during major holidays; the most popular are Valentine’s Day and Christmas. Shook said she’d rather give a customer a discount and make some money on a piece than wait three months without selling it.
As with most businesses, COVID-19 has taken its toll on River Park Jewelers.
“I was closed for two and a half months. I was worried, but I prayed and got a loan. I feel blessed and grateful and I take nothing for granted. Above all, I believe in Jesus; he has never disappointed me.
“I’m not a proud person, but I’m proud to be an honest person. You reap what you sow. I am happy to have the trust of my clients.
River Park Jewelers is open Tuesday through Saturday at 1433 W. Imola Ave., Napa, 707-254-7500, riverparkjewelers.com.
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