K.Jons liquidates as owners announce retirement

By PAT PEMBERTON

When a woman brought a badly damaged ring into K.Jons Diamonds & Gems, founder Stan Sherwin gave it a look, then sympathetically shook his head.

“At first, I told her no — we can’t do it,” Sherwin recalled. “But then she told me the story behind it, and I said, ‘We’ll do it.’”

The 1930s-era ring had belonged to the customer’s grandmother, who was wearing it during a fatal house fire.

While the repair was a daunting task, the platinum heirloom was salvaged, leading to an emotional scene when the customer returned for it.

“When she came in, she burst out crying,” Sherwin said. “I was in tears. It was such an emotional deal.”

That moment is one of the best memories he has from his 40 years in business. And, of course, he and his wife, Mary, are thinking about those memories a lot now that they’re retiring.

“It’s a wonderful hobby and business,” Mary said. “For 40 years, we have loved what we do.”

K.Jon’s roots date back to the 1940s when Stan’s parents, John and Kay, took up rock hunting as a hobby.

“Mom and Dad were rock hounds,” Stan said. “They were just the most active hobbyists you’ve ever met.”

Growing up in Indio, Stan and his three siblings accompanied their parents on rock-hunting trips to the desert, with Stan often polishing opals and agates they’d collected. In the 70s, his family moved to  Paso Robles.

Stan, who had taken an interest in opals, went to Cal Poly to study math. Living in Mustang Village, he met his future wife, who was studying social sciences. After they married, Stan worked for the railroad as a brakeman, while Mary got a job as a bank teller. On the side, they sold gems and minerals on the weekends.

They named the business K-Jon’s after Stan’s parents Kay and John. At one point, they traveled throughout California and nearby states 28 weekends a year, selling their gems. Meanwhile, Stan became proficient at repairs.

But all that work and travel began taking a toll. 

 “That’s when we said, ‘Something’s got to give,’” Stan said. “Either we pursue our passion, or I stay on the railroad, and that will be our life.”

Stan gave a year’s notice and opened their shop in 1980. Rather than continue selling gems and minerals, they decided to sell “fine jewelry.”

Mary continued to work at the bank while performing bookkeeping and other functions at the store until she quit the bank in 2000. In 2004, with the business still growing, they moved into a larger building at 5255 El Camino Real. 

On a recent Saturday, that building saw a steady stream of customers, taking advantage of sales up to 70 percent off. Posters on the walls announced “Everything Must Go,” “Wall to Wall Sale” and “Going out of Business.”

As Stan explained to one customer, he’d always said if K.Jons ever had a 70-percent off sale, it would be a sign that they were going out of business. And, indeed, the couple has decided to enjoy retirement, traveling in their RV, fishing and resuming gem hunting as a hobby.

While one of their daughters is a gemologist who has worked for K.Jons, she doesn’t want to run the business. So the Sherwins decided to close the shop after the liquidation sale is complete.

Unfortunately, that could force their long-time employees to seek other work. But Stan hopes that another jeweler will lease the building from him and Mary since it’s designed for that business, complete with a safe and repair shop.

“We’re gonna do our best to continue it,” Stan said.

Meanwhile, friends and former customers have been sharing memories via social media. Just like the woman who brought in her late grandmother’s ring, many customers have had special stories attached to their visits.

“That’s what makes jewelry special,” Stan said. “It marks special occasions. It marks special memories.” 

Getting through this together, Atascadero