- Associated Press - Monday, January 25, 2016

WESTWEGO, La. (AP) - Pellerin’s Quality Jewelers is a household name in Westwego. Anytime a ring needed to be sized or soldered, a chain or rosary needed to be repaired or a battery in a watch needed to be replaced, Pellerin’s was the place to go.

But it wasn’t just repairs; all types of beautiful jewelry filled the cases and were available for sale.

After 66 years of servicing Westwego, Pellerin’s closed its doors on Jan. 15.

Randy and Toni Arsenaux, owners of Pellerin’s, said they will miss the customers.

“A lot of people come in and just stand there and cry. We’ve made so many friends from customers. Everybody is just so sweet,” Toni said.

Randy said, “I will miss helping people. I had a lot of customers that appreciated it.”

Many customers were grateful for the smiling faces and excellent customer service they received when they shopped there.

“All of my good jewelry came from Pellerin’s. They are honest and trustworthy,” Judy Helmer said.

She and Gaynell Muller both said that when you brought in a piece of jewelry to be repaired, you knew that you were getting your same stones. They said you didn’t have to worry about your stones being replaced.

“I will miss the professional service, the friendliness and the longtime business,” Gaynell Muller said.

Muller said that most of her jewelry came from Pellerin’s. “My parents did business there so we did our business there also. You knew that they had anything you needed, whether it was a gift for a first communion or confirmation.”

Pellerin’s played a huge part of many of our resident’s lives, especially for special days. The memories will last a lifetime.

“My engagement ring came from Pellerin’s and my 14 caret gold cuff bracelet was one of the first pieces Randy made when he worked under Mark on Fourth Street,” Muller said.

Helmer said that her wedding set was purchased at Pellerin’s.

Toni, who also is very creative and enjoys arts and crafts, said she will also miss decorating the window display with various scenes. A colorful display of huge light bulbs was the last scene in the window when the store closed. The scene was designed after greetings cards she made for her customers. The scene consisted of huge light bulbs and Mr. Bingle is helping the bulbs on the tree. When one goes out, they all go out but they never go out unchaperoned and Mr. Bingle has them by the arm.

There were also little games in the window and in the shop. You can find little signs that say “silver bracelet” or “found Saints charm.”

She called it a seek and find game from the Fantasy Swamp Production. All year and every holiday, there was always a scene and a game. One year there was an Easter egg game where you picked an egg and the egg had something in it or a clue to find the prize.

Toni would also design scenes within the scenes. Once she created Fran Fly, who had her 40th birthday party. There were balloons and signs saying, “Lordy, Lordy, Fran is 40.”

“When I see something, I think of how I can use it,” Toni said. She created little windows in aluminum cans to create little houses for her critters. During Christmas, it was the house for tiny mice. A Campbell’s soup can was transformed into a hospital, operated by Dr. Campbell.

“I used to write a story book for each change of scenes” she said.

She created Bobby Bucklehart and his family.

“The Bucklehart’s go back at least 100 years and when they had the police chief run offs here in the city one of them was running for police chief also.”

Pellerin’s Jewelry can be traced back to 1949, when Mark and Rita Pellerin opened the shop on Laroussini Street. They then moved to Sala Avenue, and finally to Fourth Street.

When Mark and Rita decided to retire in 1977, they kept the business in the family by offering it to Randy and Toni.

“Rita’s mom and my mom were sisters. Rita was my first cousin, but we were close. When my mom passed, Rita’s mom became my mom. When her mom passed, Rita filled in that spot,” Toni said.

The Arsenaux’s were extremely familiar with the jewelry business by the time they took it over.

“I worked after school at the shop when it was on Fourth Street when I was 13 years-old. I started out cleaning cases, cleaning jewelry and cleaning the floor. Then I used to watch Mark at the bench, and then little by little, he saw that I had a knack for it. So I started to do bench work,” Toni said.

She said bench work consists of repairs, soldering, cutting, monogram work and polishing.

Prior to the Arsenauxs taking over the business, Randy did a one-year apprenticeship with Mark. Then Toni left her job as a teacher. They moved the shop from Fourth Street to the West Bank Expressway and Avenue F. This is where the business remained for 38 years.

The decision to retire came about when Rita passed away in October. “I was taking care of her and like I said, we were very close. When she passed away the feeling wasn’t there anymore. It’s a bittersweet retirement,” Toni said.

Randy said he is looking forward to spending time with Toni alone and having more time to do things.

Toni said that she hasn’t decided what she will do next. “It’s one day at a time.”

Muller said, “I am very excited for Randy and Toni, but sorry for us. Where will we shop now?”

___

Information from: The Times-Picayune, https://www.nola.com

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