Downtown a 'perfect fit' for jeweler

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  • | 12:00 p.m. November 21, 2003
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by J. Brooks Terry

Staff Writer

Starting your own business can be a daunting task, but Juan Gonzalez, owner of the Hemming Plaza Jewelers, is more than ready to get started.

“I can’t wait to open,” said Gonzalez, who’s eying a Dec. 15 grand opening. “I think people are really going to enjoy my store and I feel like we’re going to do pretty well.

“If I can be open within a few weeks, it will be the perfect Christmas gift.”

Gonzalez said he’s still deciding on business hours, but added he’ll likely be in line with rest of downtown.

“I want to be as accommodating as I can,” he said. “I’ll probably open around 8 a.m. and stay open until six in the evening. On Saturday I’ll be open, too, so people can pick up orders, but not quite as late.”

Family-owned businesses are common in Gonzalez’ family. Aside from the his jewelry store, Gonzalez’ parents own the Stadium Club — he’s the manager — and his aunt formerly owned George’s Barbecue and the Derby House in Five Points.

“That’s how I grew up,” he said. “So am I nervous? A little. Scared? Nah.”

Gonzalez said his extended family will help staff the store.

“My family will definitely help me out,” he said. “My girlfriend will too.”

Prior to setting his sights on opening a jewelry store, Gonzalez said he made sure to get the proper training, so he would feel comfortable handling jewelry and, more importantly, know what he was talking about.

“I knew I needed to have a good understanding of what you need to know to work in this kind of business,” he said. “And everyone I talked with said I shouldn’t think about doing this without it.”

It wasn’t easy, but Gonzalez worked full-time at the Stadium Club from Friday through Sunday, before driving all the way to Miami with his brother, also a jeweler, to take classes in manufacturing, designing, geology and diamond grading, during the week.

“I felt like I was always on the go,” he said, “but it really wasn’t so bad.”

Not only wasn’t it bad, but Gonzalez crammed two years’ worth of schooling into eight months, while maintaining a 4.0 grade point average.

When asked why he opted for a downtown location, Gonzalez said it became obvious, after other potential locations on the Southside and in Mandarin didn’t suit his needs.

“In the beginning, finding the right location was the tricky part, but eventually I realized downtown is the part of the city where most of the growth is taking place,” he said. “That’s very impressive to me and I think it will be very important to the success of my business. It’s the perfect fit.”

For now, Gonzalez divides the majority of his time between managing the Stadium Club and overseeing construction inside the store.

“Even when I’m not here, I probably devote 10 hours a day to my jewelry store,” said Gonzalez, adding he’ll stay on as

manager at the sports bar after Hemming Plaza Jewelers opens.

“It’s not a big deal, though,” he said. “I’m used to working 15-hour days.”

And though his first jewelry store, Gonzalez is quick to point out this isn’t his first solo business venture.

“Not exactly,” he said. “When I was five, I had my own business selling popcorn and lemonade, before I found out I needed a license. I was pretty successful then, so I hope to have a similar experience this time. Plus, I have license now.”