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    Jeweler's designs gain store loyal fans

    By CHRIS COSDON

    © St. Petersburg Times, published December 13, 2000


    Smith was driving to a doctor's office when he spotted a sign proclaiming a "jewelry and pawn" store.

    Intrigued, he stopped, walked in and started a business relationship that continues a decade later.

    "The shop had so many nice and unique things," Smith recalled, talking this week by telephone from his Cedarville, Mich., home. "I was so impressed with the quality of the shop and with the young owner, Raymond Arnold. He was knowledgeable about what he was selling and impressed me as being very honest."

    Arnold, who learned to work with fine metals and gems as an apprentice to a goldsmith and jeweler, recently eliminated the pawn part of his business.

    "People would see my wife's jewelry and ask about it," Arnold said. "But when I told them my business was pawn and jewelry, it turned off some of them. It seemed like the word "pawn' was holding us back."

    So, last year he stopped doing pawn work and changed the name of the business, for the past 10 years at 12293 Seminole Blvd., to Raymond Arnold Jewelers.

    Earlier this year, he and his wife and partner, Kim, expanded the store's inventory to include Russian diamonds and Seiko wall clocks, many of them musical. They also expanded the size of the store by 650 square feet, bringing the total area to 2,850 square feet. The expansion took an investment of more than $150,000, Arnold said.

    Arnold has designed and made fine jewelry for Smith, who with his wife, Sharon, spends the winters in Clearwater. A day after meeting Arnold, Smith purchased a 3-carat diamond ring, Arnold said.

    "He has a first-class operation," Smith said. "I can't wait to get there to see Raymond and what new things he has."

    In addition to jewelry and clocks, the store carries limited edition porcelain dolls.

    Arnold, who was born in St. Petersburg and graduated from Northeast High in 1978, began working in his father's pawn business in 1983. The St. Petersburg business specialized in sets of tools. Two years later, Arnold took $600 and opened his own pawnshop in Gulfport.

    "During his first year in business, I probably bought $2,000 worth of tools from Ray Junior," recalled L.R. "Tag" Williams of St. Petersburg.

    Williams, who owns a tree service and tractor mowing business, said he has bought "quite a bit of jewelry" from Arnold since he opened his own store. "Everything has always been in good condition and properly represented," he said. "Ray Junior is one of the young men in mylife that I'm really proud to be associated with."

    Arnold said his custom work has ranged from floating diamond necklaces to diamond rings set in platinum. On difficult jobs, he said, he calls on Bill Brant, a jeweler with 25 years of experience. And he uses Martin Kuhns, a watchmaker, for watch repairs. Jewelry appraisals are done by an independent appraiser.

    Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday. Call 586-0414.

    Real estate

    Maday Freist has joined the Seminole office of Century 21 Grant Realty at 6450 Seminole Blvd. The native of Cuba is a longtime resident of Pinellas County and previously worked in the insurance industry.

    Ernie Fede and Allen Godfrey are the newest sales associates at Adamo Realty at 7976 Seminole Blvd. Fede moved here in 1980 from New Haven, Conn. He will focus on real estate sales in the Tyrone area of St. Petersburg. Godfrey came here in 1979 from Alabama and has a background in property management and the construction field.

    * * *

    - Know of a new or unique business in the greater Seminole area? If so, tell us about it. Send items to Seminole Business, Seminole Times, 710 Court St., Clearwater, FL 33756 or fax it to 445-4119. We also are interested in promotions, expansions and major new contracts. Photos can be sent, but not all will be used and they cannot be returned.

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