By Karl Henkel
When Jeres Achkar was a teenager living in Cuba, he crafted his first gold ring from scratch.
He gave it to his father, Assed, who until that point never wore a single piece of jewelry even though he himself was a jeweler.
His father tried out the ring, thanked Jeres and never removed it for the remainder of his life.
It was at that time Jeres decided to become a jeweler.
And 65 years later, in the wake of his pending retirement next month, Jeres can look back and say he made the right decision.
“I have enjoyed every second of the 65 years I’ve sold jewelry,” he said. “And I’d do it all over again.”
It wasn’t an easy choice by any means, Achkar said, because his father, known as a stickler, wanted more of Achkar.
How much more?
He would have preferred if Achkar had become an ophthalmologist or a dentist.
But Achkar, who turns 80 in January, chose to follow in his father’s footsteps, and after coming to the United States at age 33, he opened a jewelry store in Youngstown, where he stayed for more than two decades.
Achkar said he would have preferred to stay in the city, but didn’t think the increasing crime rate was good for a business that dealt with valuable jewelry.
“I would have stayed downtown forever,” he said, “but it was a difficult situation, but I could not find a place that was suitable or safe.”
So in 1988, after 24 years at his downtown location, Achkar moved his business to 7313 South Ave., just south of state Route 224 in Boardman.
He didn’t miss a beat.
“Business increased tremendously,” he said.
Business remained great, in fact, even after he announced his retirement a few months back. Achkar said he’s been inundated with well-wishes from longtime customers, some of whom have some last-minute alterations and requests.
“I didn’t think going through this, it was going to be too emotional,” he said.
Achkar’s had to turn away most, because he simply doesn’t have the time to finish everyone’s requests before he closes his doors for good Sept. 30.
In fact, he’s already sold much of his merchandise and is biding his time. Achkar, of course, liquidated his store without having a sale.
He never had a sale — ever.
It wasn’t something he believed in.
“Why have a sale,” he asked, “when I always give my customers the best deal?”
Achkar said he toyed with the idea of selling the business — including his family name — but quickly decided both he and the store needed to retire together.
“It takes a long time to build up a reputation,” he said. “And it takes two minutes to lose it.”
That reputation hasn’t gone unnoticed by local jewelers, such as Bob Komara of Komara Jewelers. Komara said he and Achkar were “friendly competitors” through the years and he admired Achkar’s longevity.
This coming from a guy, Komara, whose family has run a three-generation jewelry store.
“He’s a genuine, good, honest person,” Komara said. “It’s certainly a loss.”
The community’s loss is Achkar’s gain.
He plans to spend more time with his grandson Christopher, who lives in Pittsburgh, oil painting, something he’s done for the last dozen or so years, and playing the guitar, something he hasn’t done in 35 years.
“At this stage of my life, I could get sick any time and leave my wife stuck with this business,” he said. “So now was the right time to get out.”