By Nancy Gould-Hilliard
Special to the Reporter
“Nancy?” asks the shaky voice on the telephone. “I did it!”
Oh-oh, I wondered what — and who — dunnit?
“I completed a 27-year career on Mercer Island as an independent merchant and am the last fine jeweler standing.”
It was my friend Chris Francisco, who said he was closing the door to his jewelry shop on 76th Avenue Southeast as 2020 ends. He wants to express gratitude to his customers by offering “half prices” for the remaining 10 weeks.
This not only caps his 37 years as a jeweler (11 earlier years at Bevans in Bellevue), but celebrates his full circle as a fourth-generation jeweler. His late father Crisanto, for whom he is named, brought the family from the Philippines to Seattle in 1968 when Chris was 8. Dad and seven uncles were jewelers, and five of Chris’ brothers also have followed suit. Chris and his dad are known for their artistry –- the senior was fabled to have created a ring for Elvis, and Chris’ most unique work was a diamond tooth grill for a rock ‘n roll star.
To sustain his business, Chris did far more than custom design “pretties.”
“I did it all alone — repaired pieces, sold and maintained clocks and watches, engraved, appraised and created,” he says.
He really listened to his patrons, who later even sought his counsel. For instance, he watched my late husband Bob decline as we dropped by over the years. One October day I was eyeing a birthstone ring, and he asked Bob to secretly come to the register. He suggested Bob buy it for his good caregiver. I was flabbergasted to unwrap it on my birthday.
I watched Chris chat with the postman, with a woman who felt rejected by her family, by those moved to report abuse by a sign outside his door saying: “There’s no place for domestic violence.”
“I’ll miss most the contact with friends in the community,” says Chris.
Sure, the local business came with its ups and downs, a couple of intended break-ins, and marginal profits some months. But it gave him ideal hours for family time –- with his wife of 42 years Precy, his son Alex, his daughter Priscilla, and grandkids Kayleen and Peyton. Scores more aunts, uncles, cousins and extended Francisco family also factor in.
“I want to join my wife, who retires from her job at a Seattle law office, the same day (Dec. 31),” says Chris.” For three decades he’s driven her to and from her office every day, before coming to his own job. “In our retirement, I want to teach her how to fish, and I’ve promised her a rose garden.” They most likely will sell their vintage Beacon Hill home and move nearer kids.
* New store hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday at 2448 76th Ave. SE., Mercer Island. No more custom work. He packs out his tools and workbench Dec. 31.