Bradenton jeweler loves bricks and mortar as much as gold

rdymond@bradenton.comJuly 16, 2013 

BRADENTON -- There was only one word to describe Tom Jess' mood Monday.

The owner of Jess Jewelers was bubbly.

Or was he bauble-ly,

Either way, the 50-something was on Cloud Nine as his new downtown Bradenton jewelry store, complete with attached parking lot, finally opened in the historic 1926 Welsh-Kirk Building in downtown Bradenton after months of architectural planning, demo

lition and building,

"Come see, come see what we have done," a breathless Jess said to friends, customers and just about anyone who happened by the front door at the corner of 14th Street West and Sixth Avenue West.

"We kept the original brick on the west inside wall," said Jess with the giddy enthusiasm of an art museum docent describing a Picasso.

There is good reason Jess was going gaga over bricks surrounding with his handsome Jess brand watches, Italian blown glass jewelry and new Hersey Kisses silver pendants and earrings.

Jess now owns the building at 1312 Sixth Ave. W. He owns a piece of downtown Bradenton and he is filled with pride, he said.

"My family had a jewelry business in St. Petersburg and when I got of age, I decided I wanted to go out in the world and start my own," Jess said. "I decided on Bradenton because it was under-served. But I never owned a building until now. Now that I am here, I realize there is no place like Bradenton. It's truly beautiful."

Jess was too caught up in his enthusiasm to mention his new store, which he moved from a previous site across the street in the lobby of the Bradenton Financial Center, will be open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

The new store sets sail with Jess and a crew of four, including the gregarious Alfonso Sierra, a master goldsmith who speaks Spanish; Steven Dangler, a certified gemologist who has as many plaques on his wall as a doctor; longtime Bradenton resident Ken Alicea, who will be store manager; and saleswoman Ann Colonna.

"Mr. Jess is a very passionate person," Colonna said Monday. "We're family. He's very, very generous."

Jess said he will be involved in every aspect of the store.

"I survived the recession," Jess said. "It was hard. I had to pull in. I had to get lean. But I think we, as a Bradenton economy, are on our way back. You have to be lean now, but you can make it, you can make it."

Besides selling fine jewelry and fixing old jewelry at the new store, Jess will engrave anything from shotguns to bowling balls. His specialty involves wine bottles.

When not making sure everything is perfect in his store, Jess loves to see the Tampa Bay Rays with his wife, Shevy, who is from Israel, and his three children, Maya, 16, David, 14, and Sarah, 12.

Jess said Monday his mission in life, now that he accomplished Bucket List item No. 9 by buying his own roughly 5,000-square-foot building, is to be the best jewelry repair business in Bradenton and Sarasota.

"I want to be the king of jewelry repair," Jess said. "We now have the most advanced jewelry shop repair areas in Bradenton and Sarasota. I have three separate areas devoted to it."

Jess proudly showed visitors how Sierra puts his arms into the protective sleeves of a laser machine to do repairs.

"Say a prong has broken off someone's heirloom jewelry," Jess said. "This laser can direct heat in a pinpoint to do a micro-weld."

The repair wing, as Jess likes to call it, is designed like a maternity ward with glass windows so any customer can watch Sierra and Dangler restore their jewelry.

"At no time is the jewelry out of sight of the owners," Jess said.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 6686.

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