El Dorado News-Times, Monday, July 8, 2013
Family style shines at Antoon’s
Since 1955, the Antoon family has shared their sparkle with El Dorado
By Sherelle Black
(Editor’s Note: The following article is the 35 th in a series on established El Dorado businesses that have been in operation for 40 years or more.)
Strolling around in his fedora and three-piece business suit, James J. Antoon was nothing short of a lady charmer when he wooed women with his suave and debonair compliments. His dapper ways proved to be helpful when he decided to stop working his blue-collar job and to become a jewelry store owner. On Labor Day weekend in 1955, Antoon purchased a liquidated jewelry store that had belonged to his friend Ruby Baum, who had just passed away in a car accident. At the time of the accident, Baum owned a chain of four jewelry stores located in Little Rock, Hot Springs, Pine Bluff and El Dorado. Antoon purchased the El Dorado store, which was located in the bottom of what was then the Randolph Hotel.
It wasn’t until two years later that the name changed from United Credit Jewelers to Antoon’s Jewelers. Not only did the store undergo a name change, but 10 years later the store relocated to 108 E. Elm St. Now, 58 years since Antoon purchased the store, it is still operated by Antoons. Grandsons James J. Antoon III and Jon Antoon and their mother Beckie Antoon have kept the store running since James Antoon passed away in 1971 from pancreatic cancer and James Antoon Jr. passed away in 1981.
James Antoon III said they are the oldest and only jewelry store in town owned by only one family, adding that the business has stayed in the family so long that when an Antoon comes to work, they call it "earning your inheritance." "Everyone that works here is a member of the family, except for a family friend who comes back and works for us," he said. "Being a family that works together, we do really good." Antoon III said the perks of having his own business are more than satisfying to him and his family.
"The best part about my job is getting to visit with people," he said. "Also, getting to set my own hours is always nice." Antoon’s Jewelers closes its doors twice a year, allowing the family to go on vacation or to catch a much-needed break. "We close for a couple of days in January and July," Antoon III said. "People say ‘How can you close it?’ Well, I have the key! The best part of being self-employed is that you can go when you choose."
Besides Antoon’s Jewelers being family owned, their unique gifting section is another thing that makes their shop exclusive. "Where else can you find a full taxidermy razorback hog, a horse head and three giant sock monkeys?" Antoon III asked. "We have a whole lot of fun picking out the gifts."
Beckie Antoon added that she dyed the razorback red herself. The family-owned business takes pride in the fact that they do everything themselves. "We do all our repairing ourselves," Jon Antoon said. "It’s all us; we set all our stones and everything like that. Other people have to hire a repair man to come in and do it."
His mother said the store has a certain stature in the community when it comes to their ability to repair items. "Our reputation is so good when it comes to fixing things that people will bring in all kinds of things for us to fi x," she said. "We’re real jewelers, not shop keeper jewelers."
The Antoons said they plan on being in the exact same place with the exact same people in the years to come. However, they said they would like to expand, but it is something they would consider at a later time. "We would like to have more room right now, but not at the moment," Antoon III said. "With gold being real high right now, a lot more of my money goes toward that. What went for $400 now goes for $1200."
In the meantime, the Antoons say they will continue to be the jeweler shop that blue-collar worker can rely on to give them the best deal. "We have people that come in here, and say they remember when they came in with their grandmother," Antoon III said. "We are the shop that generation after generation continues to do business with. It’s because we are always straight up with customers — we’re clean — we tell you things truthfully, and that’s what works."