When customers walk into Gennaro Jewelers on Bedford Avenue, they may notice a sign hung above the doorway that reads, “The growth of any business is nurtured one customer at a time.” Gary Hudes, the shop’s owner, said his staff lives by the mantra and similar sayings posted around the store, which is among the reasons the shop has been in business for 90 years.
“When customers walk through that door, they should experience small business the way it used to be in the good old days,” Hudes said. “They should know that we are happy to see them and will do everything we can to make them happy.”
As 2013 came to a close, Hudes reflected on the store’s 90-year history. He explained that the staff has been committed to personal, knowledgeable and friendly service since 1923, and they will continue to maintain this business model into 2014.
In the beginning
Hudes, 58, said that Erwin Von der Heydt, who was born on a farm in North Bellmore, opened the store with his wife at 410 Bedford Ave. The only store in Bellmore older than the jewelry shop was Weinman’s Hardware, which opened in 1922 and closed recently.
Von der Heydt specialized in watch making, Hudes said. Because of his expertise, he was contracted to install the clocks at the West Bathhouse at Jones Beach, which opened in the 1930s.
The store’s name changed to Gennaro Jewelers in 1968 when Louis Gennaro, another Bellmorite, took over the business. Hudes said Gennaro worked with Von der Heydt throughout the early 1960s, helping him to expand the business.
Hudes came into the business in 1979. Unlike Gennaro, who was a horologist, or watchmaker, Hudes is a jeweler by trade. He explained that that means he is able to design and create jewelry himself, a skill that he learned as a 17-year-old art student.
“As soon as I touched the metal, I knew that this was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” he said. “It’s something I still love to do, and you have to love what you do.”