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81 years on Main Street, jewelry store still sparkling

Carol Moosman, owner and operator of Lewis Jewelry, stands behind the cases of jewelry at the business on Tuesday. The business has been open since 1921 and despite a rough six-month stretch to begin the year, Moosman said Lewis Jewelry is still hanging around.
Cherilyn Johnson uses a small screwdriver to fix a watch wristband

Sun Advocate reporter

Lewis Jewelry has been a fixture in downtown Price for eight decades. Those who have worked there have seen the ups and downs of being a business in a small city and having to constantly work hard trying to survive and stay afloat. But having a passion for buying, selling and repairing jewelry of all shapes and sizes is one of the interesting parts to the job. And helping a person find that right piece of jewelry for their significant other is an interesting experience to say the least.

The business first opened in 1921, when W.W. Lewis created the shop which doubled as an optometrist office and a jewelry store. Isabell, Lewis' wife, ran the store after he passed away. The business has seen the changes over the years in downtown Price with other businesses closing up shop and others coming and going. Despite all of the changes Lewis Jewelry is still there in the same building since its grand opening 89 years ago.

"We've been in the same spot on Main Street since we first opened in 1921," said Carol Moosman, owner and operator of Lewis Jewelry. "People sometimes have a hard time knowing that we're still here."

Richard Lewis, son of W.W. and Isabell, took over the business from his mother in the 1980s. Moosman started working there in 1991 and two years later she was given the reigns to the business. It was an auspicious, yet humorous, start for Moosman who was left with one thing that was considered to be of the utmost importance: a sheet of paper telling her how to pay weekly, monthly and yearly taxes.

The job

While it may feel like a sales position selling jewelry, there is a lot more that goes into the job, Moosman said. There is the need to learn everything about the merchandise in the store, knowing how to repair jewelry and other items and getting people to buy from you. After getting into the jewelry business, Moosman took some courses with the Gemology Institute of America, where she received the education that continues to play a role on the job each day.

A jewelry store is unique compared to buying a ring or bracelet at a large store or chain, Moosman said. Because Lewis Jewelry focuses solely on everything having to do with a piece of jewelry, there is the better knowledge of knowing exactly what types of diamonds are in the store and what type of jewelry fits a specific situation. Add to that the fact she picks out what type of jewelry from vendors to sell in the store, and it makes helping customers much less difficult.

"I want to see for myself the type of jewelry I'm getting," Moosman said. "There is a lot that goes into each and every diamond." Diamonds follow the four C's: clarity, cut, carat weight and color.

Despite being able to closely inspect and wear jewelry costing thousands of dollars, the job can, at times, not be as glamorous as it can be made out to be. Moosman said she has spent many late nights at the store staying as late as 5 a.m. on some days just to make sure everything was taken care of from payroll to new merchandise and repairing jewelry

"For about three years I was staying here almost every night," she said.

It can be a dangerous profession, especially with handling and watching over thousands of dollars worth of diamonds and other jewelry. The business used to be a lot more relaxed in previous years. But a few years ago, some people went into Lewis Jewelry and did a "snatch and grab job", Moosman said. The experience changed things a bit with every case in the store being locked. Because of the late hours spent at the job, having a concealed firearm permit has always been a need for the store, Moosman said.

It's not just the business owners who are the only ones facing danger. Vendors also deal with their fair share of danger on the job. They may be walking around with a backpack or a suitcase filled with jewelry and a gun in the event of something happening.

"We never know who is going to walk through the doors on a daily basis," Moosman said.

While the work may not be easy, one of the favorite parts of the job is meeting the people, including some who just stop by to say hello and chat for awhile, Moosman said.

"I love working with people," she said. "My favorite spot is at the front of the store talking with people, asking about their families and their lives."

Local vs upstate

Like other businesses in the city, Lewis Jewelry depends on the local community to stay afloat. Moosman said because they are located in a smaller community, they work hard to try and get people to come back to the store over the years. It can prove to be a difficult task, with major chains like Wal-Mart, Jared and Shane Co. selling jewelry in big cities. Some people choose to go up north and buy their jewelry up there, leaving Moosman to wonder what goes into that decision. When you depend on the community for help, it can be hard to see that take place, she said.

"When you buy local, you're helping out the local community," Moosman said. "In a small community, it's important to know who you are and the community you are located in. We care a lot about this place. If we didn't, we probably wouldn't be here anymore."

The first six months of the 2010 have not gone very well, Moosman said. Since keeping records of the books of the store, Moosman found that the six month period at the beginning of the year was the worst stretch in the history of the establishment. A loan from Zion's bank is what is helping keep the store afloat right now, she said. As many other businesses can attest to, Coal mining plays a role in the store's success. When times were really good some miners would come in the store and spend a few thousand dollars. But when the mining industry is down, the store has suffered as a result.

"We are connected at the hip to everything that goes on around us," she said.

Men vs Women

So the question is out there. How do people in the jewelry business see this topic?

Moosman said that men are much easier to help out when they are buying any type of jewelry.

"They're nice. They come in here and know what they want," Moosman said. "They're not dumb."

Women on the other hand can be a little more difficult to deal with, she said. While they are not as decisive as men, they can be a little tougher when it comes to buying jewelry because they want the ring, bracelet or necklace to be the perfect one.

So what should people do to prepare before coming in to buy jewelry? Moosman listed three questions to ask before looking to buy any jewelry: what does the significant other want, what is it that person would like to have and ask yourself who it is you are buying for and why.

The future of Lewis Jewelry is still left to be discovered. Despite what happens, there will still be many interesting moments.

"Working here is very interesting," said Cherilyn Johnson, who has worked at the store for six years. "I never see the same thing twice around here."

While there is a lot of work to be done to keep the business going, Moosman said it's a love for the job and the people she works with that keeps her going strong.

"It's been a real struggle to stay here," she said. "It's a lot of work, but for me this is a dream job. I get to see many amazing things in life through this job. I really love what I do."

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