by Max Marbut
Roy Thomas has been in the fine jewelry business since the early 1960s when he leased space Downtown in the Ivey’s department store. He has become quite a historian when it comes to retailing gold, diamonds, pearls, timepieces and gifts in Jacksonville.
“The original Jacobs Jewelers store was located on Bay Street and opened in 1890. It was burned to the ground in the Great Fire of 1901, then they rebuilt on Forsyth Street where the business remained until 1927 when two men named Greenleaf and Crosby, who were jewelers themselves, constructed the building we’re in today.
“When it opened, the rents were expensive compared to other properties that were available Downtown, then two years later the stock market crashed. In 1930, Greenleaf and Crosby decided they didn’t want to have a store in Jacksonville anymore, so they closed it to concentrate on their stores in Miami. Jacobs moved in and the store has been here at the corner of Laura and Adams streets for the past 77 years,” he said.
Over the years, the jewelry business has changed but Jacobs Jewelers always maintained the traditions that got the business going in the late 19th century. Even when the store became part of the 226-store Fine Jewelers Guild of America for a time about 50 years ago, it maintained its roots.
Thomas was the Guild’s regional vice president and responsible for 23 stores in Florida and remembers he had to regularly remind the home office, “Jacksonville is not New York City or Dallas or San Francisco. With jewelry, every market is different.”
Thomas also said while the trend in the industry for years has been to locate stores in the suburbs, especially in shopping malls, Jacobs’ central location has been an asset, but he feels location isn’t the main reason the store has been successful for so many years.
“We’re the last jewelry store of this type in Jacksonville. At this one location, we offer everything from jewelry to fine china and gifts including several lines of collectible porcelain. Downtown is the central hub of the city, so it’s not far from any part of town.
“It’s our customers that really make this business enjoyable. They’re our friends and customer loyalty is what has made this business what it is. It’s not uncommon for someone to shop here at the same store where their parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents have shopped over the years,” said Thomas.
Thomas and his wife, Deloris, bought Jacobs Jewelers in 1987 and they have opened the doors and stocked their display cases and windows ever since.
“As far back in human history as you can go, people have loved to adorn themselves with beautiful things. We love it because it’s a happy business. When you purchase something here, you’re investing in more than just gold and diamonds – you’re investing in happiness,” he said.