August 3, 2004 > Chris's Jewelry
A Gem in Niles
Big things come from small nooks and crannies in Niles and Chris's Jewelry is no exception. This small shop is deceptive. Tucked in cases throughout the compact space, smart shoppers know that treasures await their notice. Cases display jewelry - new and used, costume and the real thing - along with watches, coins and an eclectic assortment of collectibles. A definition of this shop can be elusive since just as parameters are being drawn, up comes another facet of sales that expands and blurs previous descriptions.
It is probable that the reason for this confusion is founder, Chris Seidler's interest in design and craftsmanship which leads him many directions. A manager in the grocery business for thirteen years, his present business began as "an accident." A trip to Chris' parent's house when his wife, Sally, was pregnant took them by a garage sale. A baby swing caught their eye and they stopped to look. Visiting a garage sale was a new experience for both of them and they browsed through the items for sale. Chris, a lifelong coin collector and admirer or jewelry, knew about metal content and spied a bowl of old rings on a table. He noticed a San Francisco college ring that was being sold for $1.50 and had about $80 worth of gold in it. Another valuable silver signet ring was being sold for very little too. Chris was hooked! Garage sales became a common activity on days off from work as he looked for gold and silver. He says, "After about a year, I accumulated about 35 ounces of silver and 3 ounces of gold in jewelry just from garage sales."
A visit to a local coin shop to cash in on his "finds" was disappointing. The low amount offered for the metal convinced Chris that he could do better on his own. Passing a flea market on his way home, he decided to try selling his items directly to the public. With two display cases, borrowed from his coin club, a Saturday afternoon netted $300, "barely making a dent in what I had." His enterprise expanded since offering jewelry for sale led naturally to people asking about repairs and other lines of jewelry. As the business grew, Chris became more confident of the stability of his trade and was able to leave his job in the grocery business. It was a difficult decision since Chris was the sole financial support of his family with four children. He says that before entering the coin and jewelry business, "I knew I wanted to something on my own, but didn't know what it was."
Chris began the business with his wife, Sally and in a co-op about seventeen years ago, briefly entered a partnership, and then moved on to a shop of his own. Essentially self-taught, Chris says his knowledge was gathered through previous experience and immersing himself in the field. He chuckles as he recalls his entry into the business, "I read a lot of books and articles and asked a lot of questions."
Chris's Jewelry recently moved to a new location a few doors away from his previous shop which had housed the business for eleven years. Chris and his son Tim now greet customers daily at their "new" location. Asked about the breadth of his business, Chris replies that he does a bit of everything including coins, jewelry, repairs, and with a second-hand dealer's license, he says, "I buy anything of value." Some items can be found at the shop while many of his purchases are sold through auctions. Those who come in and cannot find what they are looking for can ask Chris to add it to a store "want list" and he will try to locate it for them.
An appreciation for good craftsmanship is at the heart of the business according to Chris. "When I see a well designed piece of jewelry, vintage or modern, I appreciate the craft and workmanship that went into it; the same holds true for a well-designed coin."
The business of buying and selling jewelry began to bring other sales opportunities. People who were selling coins would ask if he knew where they could sell or buy something else like a camcorder or digital camera. Chris, a true entrepreneur, thought, "why not?" He applied for a license to sell second-hand property and began to deal with additional items. The combination of sales of watches, jewelry, coins and other items gives stability to the business. With years of experience and a large network of contacts, Chris is confident that whatever someone brings to him, "I can find out what it is worth." He adds, "I have clients and customers who specialize in all sorts of things. For instance, one of my customers collects 'good for' tokens and is an excellent resource of information about them. Chris says that the business has grown primarily through word or mouth, "a friend or friend-of-a-friend." On occasion he works with estate sales and says it's fun to get out of the shop for bit and find some "neat stuff."
A new addition to the shop is a laser repair apparatus that can weld with pinpoint accuracy. Repairs of intricate jewelry can be accomplished easily and without the cost of stone removal and refinishing. Any metal can be repaired using this device including titanium eyeglasses. Items such as silver teapots with a broken handle can now be repaired quickly and with precision which does not discolor surrounding surfaces. Chris says the equipment has enabled him to repair many things now that were difficult or impossible previously for instance delicate antiques. The use of this high tech device even allows the addition of metal - gold, silver, platinum, etc. - to a fill a hole left by a break. "By filling and polishing the article, I can make the hole disappear." Chris reaches over to his workbench and lifts a small box whose hinge welds had broken. Previously, he would have been faced with the task of taking the box apart, but with the laser, the task is simplified tremendously with a superior result. He adds, "Not only can I fix jewelry with this, but it can be used for almost any small metal part - watches, home fixtures, cars, whatever!"
Tri-City residents who visit the many wonderful stores in Niles will want to stop by this small shop on Niles Boulevard on their next visit to see the interesting and eclectic collection that Chris's Jewelry has to offer. A wealth of information about coins, jewelry, watches and collectibles reside inside. Chris can help evaluate items that have been collecting dust in the garage - a possible bonanza! Come by to talk with Chris and Tim. Your time will be well spent.