Business

Oak Harbor’s gem of a store turns 20

Whidbey Island Jeweler owner Jeff Mack works at his bench in his new store front on Barrow Street. The business celebrated its 20 anniversary, March 1. - Justin Burnett/Whidbey News-Times
Whidbey Island Jeweler owner Jeff Mack works at his bench in his new store front on Barrow Street. The business celebrated its 20 anniversary, March 1.
— image credit: Justin Burnett/Whidbey News-Times

Before Jeff Mack was 10 years old, he could break down and clean a mantle clock. By 13, he could completely disassemble and service a pocket watch. By his senior year in high school, he could size rings and was dabbling in jewelry fabrication.

Thirty-five years later, the man’s skill is really limited only by your imagination. Along with knowing how to make just about every manner of custom jewelry, Mack can cut, polish and set precious stones. He can cast rings, bracelets, necklaces, and earrings from metals ranging from gold to platinum.

He can restore and repair watches, replace batteries, mend and refinish bands. Oh, he’s also a pretty impressive engraver.

Yep, it’s pretty safe to say that the gemologist, master gold smith, and watchmaker has probably forgotten more about the jewelry industry than most will ever know.

He also appears to know something about running a successful business. On March 1, he and his wife, Wynne Mack, celebrated the 20th anniversary of their mutually owned shop, Whidbey Island Jewelers in Oak Harbor.

With the exception of longtime employee Anna Chafee, who recently left, the Macks have pretty much operated the store by themselves.

“You can honestly say this is one of those mom-and-pop operations,” he said.

Their secret to success?

According to Mack, he owes a lot of credit to his late father. The watchmaker, jeweler, and cattle rancher instilled a strong work ethic in his 13 children. Growing up, they spent long hours working on the ranch and in the back of their father’s jewelry shop.

It had a long lasting impact on Mack. At 55, he still works about 10 to 12 hours a day.

While Mack’s father also passed down his skills as a craftsman, the man was a savvy business man as well. And his lessons on the showroom floor would prove as valuable to his son as his lessons on the workman’s bench.

Rule number one: It’s all about the customer; make them happy and make the sale. Walk into the store and you will find it immaculately clean, notice a faint smell of cinnamon, and it will be a degree or two too chilly. Why? Again, it’s all about the customer.

“When you’re looking at a $3,000 ring, it can get hot pretty fast,” Mack said.

But in today’s turbulent economy, the rules have changed, especially for those in the luxury sales business. The price of precious metals is at an all-time high, which has forced prices up and the Macks to make a few changes.

The most noticeable was the recent relocation of the store from its longtime spot on Highway 20 to a vacant building they own just behind it on Barlow Street.

The move was a way to cut costs — Whidbey Coffee wanted to expand and move into the old building — but it was also a personal decision. Employee Chafee is a military spouse and had moved away, which made it the perfect time to slow down.

But not too much.

Mack said he has no intention of closing his doors for good anytime soon. And if he sticks to the lessons passed down from his father, and a few he’s learned on his own, he won’t have to.

After a lifetime in the business, he’s learned that nothing is more important than the ability to step back and see your store through the eyes of your customers. Success is knowing what they want and what they like, he said.

“Asking yourself that question and continuously monitoring it, you can’t help but improve your business,” Mack said.

A ribbon cutting for the new store is scheduled to take place Friday, March 11, at 4:30 p.m.

 

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