Did you hear it? That collective sigh of relief heard in North County back in January after the popular and long- time jewelry retailer K.Jons, slated to go out of business, didn’t. A young couple, Greg Chatham and his wife Lindsay Chatham, a former employee, heard that owners Stan and Mary Sherwin were retiring—in fact, a final blowout sale was underway—and approached them about possibly buying it. A deal was struck, and the doors stayed open.
“People have been ecstatic,” Lindsay said. “What we really sense is relief. Customers are happy that K.Jons didn’t close. We’ve been wonderfully busy and are actually doing better than we expected at this point.” Greg and Lind- say, parents of a two-year-old son, Parker, say they are both grateful for the opportunity to take over from the Sherwins, who started the business in 1980 and, said Lindsay, “They worked very hard and built an amazing business and culture over the years. Because I am a former employee and they know my ethical standards, they agreed to let us retain the K.Jons name. We have partnered with and are carrying some wonderful designers from across the country and we are also eager to create our own designs.”
Greg and Lindsay are excited to bring their knowledge, talent, and experience to K.Jons. One service they are especially eager to share is 3D printing of “representation” rings. “With this technology,” Greg said, “A customer can actually see, on their hand, what their designed end-product will be.” (In fact, the 3D printer was hard at work during this interview printing new outdoor lettering for the business!)
The Sherwins were long-time family friends; Lindsay said she knew them from an early age. “Their daughters babysat me,” she said. She later went to work at the store as a teenager, though her interest in jewelry was minimal; growing up, she said, she had a desire to be an architect. “I drew house plans as a kid; I’ve always loved designing things.”
But, after moving away and working in other types of jobs, Lindsay was drawn back to her hometown, family, and K.Jons. At that point, she realized she enjoyed the “design” aspect of the industry and her passion was sparked. After designing a few pieces that were well received, Lindsay applied for and received a full scholarship to the Gemological Institute of America (G.I.A.) where she earned her Graduate Gemologist degree and started her own business, Lindsay Jane Designs. It was also there where she met her husband-to-be, Greg.
Greg was pursuing an interest in working as a gemstone dealer. Currently serving in the California National Guard Special Forces (he is able to work remotely from this area), he found his passion for gems when, on assignment in Afghanistan, his mom asked him to find some lapis for her.
Off-duty, Greg recalls, “I was researching gems, ordering testing equipment, and made some purchases.” Which, by the way, in that part of the world is limited and he says, “not safe.” But he persevered, seeking only the highest quality stones, going from dealer to dealer and ultimately bringing home some beautiful specimens. (Lapis is a highly valued stone from the Kokcha River valley of Badakhshan in NE Afghanistan where the mine deposits have been worked for more than 6,000 years.)
Greg was born in Lemoore and, living in a military family, moved around a lot during his childhood. He later attended Cuesta and Cal Poly before enlisting in the Navy. He finished a stint, returned to civilian life and then signed up for United States Army Special Forces Green Beret. Currently, he is in charge of the training team and says, “I love helping the young guys; I run tryouts for military personnel who want to become Special Forces themselves.”
“I love this area and I knew I wanted to return to the Central Coast,” he said. Basically, his wish came true when he met Lindsay at G.I.A. The couple eventually married and lived in Camarillo. “Greg was trying to get a position “up there,” Lindsay said, referring to the SLO area, where she grew up and had deep roots. For her part, Lindsay says she was thrilled for the opportunity to return home and start a business with her husband. Greg says, “It’s been fun for me to see our customers’ connections with Lindsay. ‘What a relief it’s a local girl,’ they say.”
Billing herself as a jewelry architect, Lindsay continues to create creations through Lindsay Jane Designs that she describes as “Gemstones with expert design and top-quality manufacturing, creating extraordinary wearable pieces of art to cherish and pass down through generations.” She has received seven AGTA (American Gem Trade Association) Spectrum awards in a variety of categories including Bridal, Classical, Gem Diva and Manufacturing. Customers can view Lindsay Jane Designs up close at K.Jons, perhaps finding inspiration to have Lindsay personally design a custom piece of jewelry for their own collection.
Jewelry is not only the Chatham’s business; it’s their mutual interest and passion. Lindsay says that jewels are sentimental; her favorites are those that belonged to her grandmother. When Greg proposed, Lindsay said, his mom offered them her wedding ring that was a miniature of her husband’s Naval Academy Ring that Lindsay wears today. Looking ahead, she says they would like to offer shows and talks and have estate jewelry trunk shows as well as showcasing Greg’s amazing collection of rare and valuable stones and gems, already set or loose for a customer’s own design. “We’d like to do something like “Wine and Design,” she said. “We are looking forward to being involved in the community and getting the word out we are open and excited about what we’ll be offering.”
While the couple is anxious to get up to speed quickly—Greg said that he’s learning the retail jewelry side of things—they also are working to ensure a smooth turnover and take care of the employees who remained on board. “We are passionate about everyone who works here, and we want to support their passions; to that end we give paid time off so they can volunteer for their particular causes and be involved in local community projects.
Though right now Lindsay and Greg say they are crazy busy between the business, parenting and getting re-established in the community, they still try to take some time for themselves. While their number one favorite activity is being with baby Parker, Lindsay said, “We also like hanging out at home, spending time outside with our free-range chick- ens and rabbits, and anything to do with family.” They also enjoy visiting Greg’s parents in Tucson, AZ where they attend the annual Tucson Gem Show, described as amazing, and mind-blowing. The event’s website says, “Researchers, gemologists, authors, artists, miners and nearly 4,000 trade companies gather here from every continent to share their treasures, knowledge and expertise with the show’s tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of attendees.”
In the April 2016 Central Coast Journal story about then-owners Stan and Mary Sherwin, Stan said, “We love our customers, jewelry and gems.” We added, “That has a nice ring to it!” Sound familiar?
A grand opening for K.JONs has been postponed until a later date.