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Retiring Couple Hopes Jewel of a Business Will Carry On

KITCHENER - "This is not an ordinary jewelry store, not by any stretch," says Ron Andraza.

For 35 years, he and his wife, Jackie Foley, have run Jar Jewellers in Kitchener.

Since 1987, Jar (short for "Jackie and Ron") has occupied the same 850-square-foot storefront in the Krug Street Plaza, a storefront that, admittedly, looks pretty ordinary from the outside.

But it's the people within, and the services they provide, that set it apart, Andraza says.

Take his willingness to accept payment in hugs, for example, demonstrated during a recent visit when a customer needed a minor repair.

Or the wide range of goods offered - everything from custom jewelry and "preloved" pieces to giftware and handcrafted greeting cards.

Or Andraza's eagerness to tackle repairs on just about anything clients have brought in, from fine and costume jewelry to ceramics.

There's even a ladle that's come apart awaiting Andraza's healing hands.

"Anything I can figure out how to fix, I fix," he says. "If they're willing to pay me for my time, I'm not going to throw my nose up at it." A steady stream of customers flowed through the door on a recent weekday afternoon, increased somewhat, perhaps, by the couple's recent announcement that they'll be retiring at the end of May.

They've decided they want to spend more time with family and pursue other interests.

For Andraza, 72, that could mean more time spent under the spotlights, as a performer with local groups like the K-W Silver Stars and Melody Train. Foley, 67, wants to volunteer her time in area seniors' homes.

"We've always made plans for retirement, and we could have done so a while ago, but I wasn't in a hurry to quit," says Andraza. "I enjoy doing what I do." It's a sentiment Foley echoes.

"I'm a people girl," she says. "We have so many customers that are just like family. That's what I'm going to miss the most." They're hopeful the store, and some of its three veteran full-time employees, will continue on under new ownership.

"We are entertaining an offer to purchase," Foley says.

Years ago, Andraza was working as a metallurgist and Foley was in the banking sector when they started selling costume jewelry at flea markets on the side.

They went into business full-time in 1981 with a small jewelry and giftware kiosk at the former HiWay Market in Kitchener.

"We kind of stuck our necks out," Andraza chuckles. "But we decided to give it a try." They stayed there for six years, until the retail landmark closed its doors for good in 1987. From there, they moved to the Krug Street Plaza.

Jewelry counters line one side of the store, while gift items including picture frames, figurines and glassware are displayed on the other. The workshop stands at the back, with equipment and tools for plating, polishing and stone cutting and setting.

All of the preloved or estate pieces have been reconditioned and reappraised, but sell for half of the normal retail price of a new item.

Andraza also creates custom pieces, keen on bringing a customer's vision to life.

"The look on somebody's face when they find something they love" is something she'll miss, Foley says.

"We just want to thank all of our loyal, wonderful customers for 35 wonderful years, because without them, (we're) nothing." , Twitter:@DavisRecord

Retiring Couple Hopes Jewel of a Business Will Carry On 1

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