Kim and Lori Contreras are trend watchers. It’s a fact which might surprise most about the Oakdale couple, who’ve been active in the community for close to three decades. It is also a fact which has helped the couple sustain a local business for 25 years.
This October will mark the 25th anniversary of the family-owned and operated Oak Valley Jewelers. A business which first began in 1994 in the Kmart shopping center and has been in the SaveMart (Foothill Oaks) Shopping Plaza since July of 2000.
To help celebrate the milestone a storewide sale will be hosted from Sept. 13 through Sept. 28, with savings ranging from 25 to 60 percent off.
Some might say, Kim was born for the business. His father, Don Contreras, was the owner and operator of Don Contreras Jewelers which started in Palo Alto in the early 1970’s. He eventually opened a second location in Sonora.
“I started working with my parents, right out of high school,” Kim said of his start with the Bay Area business in 1980.
Upon completing high school, Kim attended Gemological Institute of America in Santa Monica, in an eight-month program.
“I always knew I would work alongside of my parents,” he said.
The couple first relocated to the Central Valley so that Lori could be closer to her parents. Living in Modesto at the time and traveling to Sonora on occasion to visit Kim’s parents took the couple through Oakdale on a regular basis.
“We traveled through Oakdale so much we fell in love with the town,” Kim shared of the Cowboy Capital.
“We saw an opportunity when they built the Kmart shopping center,” he continued. “Providing something for Oakdale that wasn’t being provided, onsite repair service and onsite custom work that wasn’t being done anywhere in Oakdale at the time.”
As the town was beginning to grow, the husband/wife team felt there would be plenty of customers to sustain a family business.
“We embraced the community and fell in love with all aspects of it,” Kim said. “The fundraising, donating and joining social groups and service clubs.”
The business move to their location of the past 19 years was prompted by the addition of the Dollar Tree. A transition, which the couple was not in favor of at the time, yet proved to be fruitful as the current location increased their visibility resulting in an increased clientele.
The recession however, would prove to be the biggest challenge for the couple as they managed to maintain the shop and the expenses of running a small business.
“We didn’t have any reprieve,” Kim said of the overhead during that time. “I used to do work for other jewelers, so that helped offset my cost of operating.”
Kim also works on custom jewelry for clients looking to repurpose existing jewelry or create something unique.
“We sell a lot of wedding rings, anniversary rings,” he said of their primary business. “We sell a lot of LeVian jewelry. We’re an exclusive LeVian dealer in the area. It’s very beautiful and exciting.”
As styles and trends come and go, the lifetime jeweler shared the solitaire ring remains a classic.
“For the most part the timeless, is a round diamond,” he said. “It’s always the most sought after. It’s always the most in demand.
“The biggest change I’ve seen in the jewelry business in the 39 years is the exposure to purchasing online,” Kim continued. “The younger customer really wants the immediacy of the transaction. They want to see it, pick it and have it. We work with them as we can, to have things done quickly.”
Thanks to quick shipping and a long career in the jewelry business, the shop is able to accommodate the demand and timeliness.
“Being consistent and doing the right thing. Really over and above anything else,” Kim shared about the success of the local business. “It’s being consistent and doing the right thing. That’s what we strive at doing every day. We love and embrace the community that gives us life every year, all year, in the 25 years that we’ve been here.”
That commitment to their clientele and the community has resulted not only in return clients locally, but customers from all over the country.
“We help them capture their desires,” he said of the service they provide. “Probably the most fun thing to do is to see someone and have them compliment you on helping them do that. We’re always trying to keep on the cutting edge of the industry, because that’s really where we have to be especially with the internet.”
Yet 25 years, multiple trends and countless customers later, it’s Oakdale itself which Kim notes as the thing he most loves about the business.
“It’s the people of Oakdale. It’s the community,” he said. “Everybody really pulls together like none other. It’s so beautiful.”
The Contreras family is happy to continue to be a small part of the fabric of Oakdale.
“It’s the city of miracles,” Kim continued. “This town can make anything happen. Everybody comes together to embrace it and actually make it happen.”