Father, daughter partner as a familiar jewelry team in Culpeper
© Culpeper Times
Juanita Sullivan and her father Ralph Brown have, between them, more than 60 years of service to the people of Culpeper.
Although father and daughter have worked together through the years, previously it was Ralph who owned the business. Now he has semi-retired and Juanita owns J & R while he is the master jeweler.
Most recently Ralph's Jewelers was in the Payne Plaza just down the street from the new site. Brown sold that store in 2007 and had planned to stay retired. But Sullivan had other plans.
“She dragged me here kicking and screaming,” Brown said, laughing.
“He couldn't fully retire, he'd go crazy,” said Sullivan.
After 2007 Brown occasionally worked with Sullivan in another store.
The new location opened Nov. 7.
“This is where you'll find Ralph now, “ Sullivan said. “We are familiar faces that people have known and trusted over the years.”
“Well, I guess they trust me,” said Brown. “They keep coming back.”
Sullivan began her jewelry career 25 years ago working out front, waiting on customers.
“Dad taught me how to use a torch for soldering chains and sizing rings,” Sullivan said. “That thing had a big ol' flame. It was kind of scary. Then I learned how to use a computerized engraver.”
Sullivan said that after he sold Ralph's. She and her dad started talking about another store.
“We decided I could open one and this space (the former Dominion One-Hour Photo) became available,” Sullivan said. “We painted, laid carpet down, basically started from scratch. Dad worked really hard.”
When Brown sold his last store, he sold the equipment with it.
“I had everything you could imagine and now we have had to replace it,” he said. “You don't know what you have until you don't have it anymore. If I'd known we were going back into business I'd have kept a lot more equipment! And I didn't bring addresses and phone numbers of suppliers. We've had to redo everything.”
Sullivan said that while she loves having her own business there are challenges
“The business part of the business – like taxes – has been a challenge,” Sullivan said. “And inventory. Instead of just doing jewelry repair I have to make sure we have everything from ring boxes to paper towels.”
Added Brown,” She didn't have to work as hard before as she does now as store owner.”
Brown said that while he enjoys the business, if he had it to do over again, he would have spent more time with his family.
“When I started I was working seven days a week,” he said. “I missed a lot of my children's growing up.”
Juanita has one brother, Ralph Jr.
“I got my foot in the door originally because I got my brother to show me how to use the engraving machine,” Sullivan said. “Then he decided this was not for him and I stayed around.”
Sullivan said she has enjoyed designing the front cases and having the lighting like she wanted it in the new store.
“And all of our jewelry is hand-selected,” she said. “We all helped pick it out, because everyone has different tastes. If we don't have something, we can always order it and have it in a few days.”
With the price of gold at more than $1,700 an ounce, the in-store inventory can only be so large.
“With the gold price so high we can't afford to buy large pieces and just sit on it,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan sells, repairs and cleans jewelry with a simple philosophy.
“I try to follow in dad's footsteps so people know they can trust me,” she said. “We know our customers. For instance, if a husband comes in and wants to get something for his wife, we often know her and can recommend something she will really like. That comes from being around town for a long time.”
INFO BOX:What: J & R Jewelers
Owner: Juanita Sullivan
Master jeweler: Ralph L. Brown
Address: 707 Dominion Square Shopping Center
Facebook: J & R Jewelers
Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday; closed Sunday.