Three decades ago, Tina Romero got a part-time job at Staudt’s Jewelry on 16th Street in Orange as she went to college. It was her first job after high school and she didn’t expect it to turn into a career.
Last week she became the owner of Mathews Jewelers Orange as she bought the store from founder Stan Mathews, who has retired. She was a natural for new position. She worked for Mathews for 32 years.
Stan Mathews also owned a store in Beaumont. Romero said she was given the offer to buy that store, too, but she wants to concentrate on Orange.
“My passion is to try to keep this town going,” she said.
Another longtime Mathews employee bought the store in Beaumont. Romero will keep the Mathews name. “We’re known for having the ‘Mathews moment,'” she said.
The “Mathews moment” is more than jewelry. The store also has gifts and is a popular place for all occasions. “We definitely have substantial purchases, but the same customers may need to buy a birthday gift for a child or a daughter,” Romero said. “What I like the most is helping people find the perfect thing for whatever their occasion.”
Service and knowledge are important for Romero, so she has surrounded herself with women who have those qualities. Meghan Toney has worked at Mathews for 10 years and “is just an all around huge asset,” Romero said.
Two of the employees are people Romero will also see at family holidays. Her daughter, Colbi Romero, works for her and Chantal Romero, the new mother of twin girls, is a niece. Valen Elliott works part-time as she studies at Lamar University in Beaumont.
“We all help each other do everything,” Romero said. In addition, they all are accredited jewelry professionals.
The employees are like family, even if they don’t share a bloodline, another store tradition. Romero said she always called Stan Mathews her “fifth brother.”
During her years of working at the store she has learned all aspects of the jewelry business. has attended classes and seminars to extend her training. She has also chosen designers and merchandise for the store to carry.
Working in a jewelry store is pleasant because people are happy when they come inside. Through the years Romero has seen the trends and generations of customers. She has now sold engagement rings to the children of people who bought their engagement rings from her. And she’s never had an engagement ring returned.
Trends for engagement rings change like fashion. At one time, the men came in to buy the ring as a surprise and then the couples came in together to choose. Now, it’s gone back to the man coming in for a ring to do the old-fashioned knee on the ground proposal, she said. The men know what to look for by looking at the woman’s Pinterest page, talking to her friends, or remembering her preferences.
White gold has been popular for the past years along with the “halo” style that features a large diamond surrounded by smaller ones. Romero said she’s seeing people starting to go back to yellow gold.
One aspect of the business that has changed is women coming in to buy for themselves. They don’t wait on a man to buy jewelry as a gift.
“Some ladies say ‘I just want something for me today,'” Romero said. “I didn’t hear that 20, 30 years ago.”
Men in Orange don’t particularly buy diamonds for themselves, she said. Watches are the favorite accessory for men. They still sell well, even though people these days carry phones that give time. Romero said her nephew bought a watch because it is not polite to check your phone during a business meeting.
In the store, Romero wears the jeweler’s loupe around her neck so the magnifying glasses are always handy. Her naked eye, though, is trained to tell the real gold and diamonds from the fake. “People say ‘How do you know?’ After 36 years, you just know,” she said.
Even after working in the business for years, Romero still likes to wear and receive jewelry. Her husband, Jesse Romero, is the West Orange assistant police chief. She said he’s good at his gift purchases. He listens to her or her daughters tell him. “When I see something that really strikes me, they’ll let him know,” she said. Still, he’s surprised her sometimes with his choice.
But she doesn’t like going to jewelry stores in her off time. She laughs a bit when recalling a cruise where the ship had “jewelry store after jewelry store after jewelry store.”
“I work in a jewelry store. I don’t want to go to one on vacation,” she said.
Being a store owner may be new for Romero, but its in her family. Her parents were longtime owners of Richard Floor and Carpet in West Orange.
Romero plans to keep the traditions of customer service and quality at Mathews Jewelers Orange to keep those “Mathews moments” coming for future generations.
-Margaret Toal, KOGT-
above: Colbi Romero, Tina Romero, and Meghan Toney