by Mike Sharkey
Things seem to be coming in fours these days for Juan and Kire Gonzalez, owners of Hemming Plaza Jewelers on Hogan Street. The brothers recently entered their fourth year in business, they have four jewelers — including themselves — on staff and by October hope to move into a space four times bigger than the one they are in now.
The store is moving just two doors down into a space at the corner of Hogan and Monroe streets. Juan Gonzalez says the new space will be spectacular when completed.
“We will be one of the three diamond salons in town,” he said.
Gonzalez said diamond salons are the new rage in buying diamonds and says they are similar to test-driving a luxury vehicle. The salon will feature courier cabinets and glass-top coffee tables through which customers will be able to see various sizes and cuts of diamond pieces.
“There will be sofas and coffee and tea and a bar,” said Gonzalez, who speaks with an accent after spending 13 years in Valencia, Spain while his father worked for Ford. “We will bring in the diamonds for customers to try on. It’s a nice, easy, comfortable way to acquire a diamond.”
The Gonzalez brothers got into the jewelry business by accident. In the late 1990s, both were in the restaurant business in Miami. They planned to open a pawn shop, but were advised against it. Their mother encouraged them to attend jeweler school. The Gonzalezes took that advice and finished the four-year program in eight months by commuting between Miami where they took classes and Jacksonville where they worked on weekends.
In 2000, the Gonzalezes officially got into the business and in March 2005 they opened Hemming Plaza Jewelers with a plan. Gonzalez figured if Downtown grew as he suspected it might, the business would grow accordingly. It has and that helps explain the necessity for a much bigger space.
“Four years later, this is too small. That’s why we are moving to a space four times bigger,” he said. “When we move, we’d like to hire people who live Downtown in the buildings.”
Neither Gonzalez offered much about the look of the new space, but Kire Gonzalez did say the “inside will be stunning.”
The brothers sell custom pieces and the walls are often adorned with art from the current month’s Art Walk.
“We try to carry pieces that you don’t see very often; the oddball pieces that when people see them they say, ‘Wow, where did you get that?’” said Gonzalez.
According to Gonzalez, his store is one of seven jewelers in the immediate Downtown area. At first glance, it would seem risky to expand in a market that may appear glutted. That impression would be wrong, says Gonzalez.
“There is room Downtown for 10 more jewelry stores and I wish they were all on the same street,” said Gonzalez. “There are seven Downtown and if there were 20 people that would come Downtown instead of the mall to go jewelry shopping, that would put more money in pockets and help the entire economy Downtown.”