How did you get your start?
Kevin Schimke, 65, remembers playing in the back room of his father’s jewelry store in El Cerrito as a child. By the time he was in 11th grade, in 1971, he was working full time during the summer and part time after school doing repairs as an apprentice. “Working for my father was more of an opportunity to earn money to buy my first car rather than a career move,” Schimke says. “At the time, I would have preferred a different line of work. However, I ended up learning jewelry repair and designing as well as store management skills. I learned I had an ability to conceptualize jewelry from the drawing board to the finished product.”
Schimke says much of what he learned early about the business came on the job. In 1978, he attended the Gemological Institute of America, earning the title of graduate gemologist, and he later became certified in jewelry arts. By 1979, he and his wife, Bella, were looking for a place to settle down. “After growing up in the East Bay and living in (Los Angeles), we didn’t want to live among the urban masses anymore,” Schimke says. “Stockton was the ideal distance between the coast and the mountains. Bella and I didn’t know anyone when we moved here.” In addition to jewelry sales, the store, in business for 40 years, also does jewelry design, repairs, ring sizing and appraisals.
What’s up on the Miracle Mile?
Kevin Schimke Jewelers is one of 171 businesses in Stockton’s Miracle Mile Improvement District. The district, formed in 2007 as a nonprofit to improve the retail area’s economic growth, is primarily along Pacific Avenue from West Alpine Way on the north to West Harding Way on the south. “We were drawn to the Miracle Mile where small businesses proliferate,” Schimke says.
Though the official district was formed 12 years ago, it has been a retail destination in Stockton far longer, and the city is planning a 100-year anniversary party in 2022. The district, according to The (Stockton) Record, was named after Los Angeles’ Miracle Mile, a palm-lined stretch of Wilshire Boulevard. The district hosts numerous events, including the Miracle Mile En Blanc, launched in 2019 and expected to become an annual tradition. The evening of entertainment and dining, with every guest dressed head-to-toe in white, took place last summer in the middle of the street at the intersection of Tuxedo Court and Beverly Place.
What about that slogan?
Schimke Jewelers also are bridal experts; they’ve been using the slogan “Where Stockton gets engaged” for “seven or eight years,” Schimke says. “When a couple comes in, we try to make them at ease to start with,” he says. “Many young couples aren’t familiar with purchasing fine jewelry, so it may seem daunting to them. We emphasize we’re there to help them find the ring of their dreams.” When asked how many couples his store has sold rings to in its 40 years of business, Schimke says, “I have no idea, but it would be in the thousands.”
What about the future?
Schimke’s daughter, Erika Schimke Reese, 34, left teaching to work full time at the store eight years ago, though it didn’t always appear she would follow in her father’s footsteps. “Erika seemed to have other interests at a young age,” Schimke says. “She had traveled to New York on a fashion tour; it seemed likely she would pursue a career in the garment industry.” Now, Schimke Reese, who has a business degree with Stanislaus State, is diamond certified by the Gemological Institute and will soon be a graduate gemologist like her father. “I love working with my dad,” she says. “I have grown to love what I do and couldn’t imagine being a part of any other industry.” Schimke says, “Erika has a solid future ahead of her in the business. I have no plans to retire, only slow down someday. I love making people happy with beautiful things, and I love who I work with. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
Main Street profiles businesses in our 10-county Capital Region. If you know of an interesting one, please email email@example.com.
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