Ocean City —
"It's my passion," Lisa Patella said. "I'm trying to fill a niche in Ocean City."
Patella is the owner of JaTori's Gems on Asbury Avenue. The sterling silver inspired jewelry store fits right in downtown among the other unique shops and businesses. The store's walls are splashed with blue and green. Flameless candles light up cabinets and corners. Sea glass photography hangs on the walls.
And the cases full of eye-catching, one-of-a-kind jewelry sparkle.
"I took my love of jewelry, my retail experience and my love of Ocean City and combined it all," said Patella. "I decided to start a business."
JaTori's specializes in sterling silver and natural gemstones. Every piece, even if it is the same cut of the same stone, is at least slightly different from each other. "It's not something you see anywhere else on the Avenue," said Patella.
When not busy in her store, Patella enjoys spending time with her family - husband Raymond and children Victoria, 7, and Jacob, 4. Her children inspired the name of JaTori's Gems.
"I wanted a unique name for the store," said Patella. "It's for them, basically. My kids were thrilled (with the name)."
The Patellas live in Washington Township during the school year. They have a second home in Ocean City where they spend their summers. When she decided to open a store, Ocean City was Patella's first choice for location. It's her favorite town.
Patella fell in love with Ocean City for the same reasons so many others do. She loves the family atmosphere and the downtown shopping district. The beach and the Boardwalk are huge draws, too.
Because of Patella's 14-year background in retail, she considers herself customer-service related. She encourages customers to try jewelry on and think about their purchases. She offers catalog orders and can provide pieces for wedding parties. JaTori's also just started a mailing list.
Patella also takes in feedback from her customers. For instance, when she was getting endless compliments on the flameless candles lighting up her store, Patella decided to carry the line for others to purchase.
Customers, after all, are important. While she has already seen repeat customers, there have also been referrals and people who stop in because they saw a piece of jewelry on someone else. This, according to Patella, is the ultimate compliment.
"Everyone has been so supportive," she said. "Family, friends and other merchants. Everybody's been great."
When she talks about her business, it is evident that Patella loves jewelry. It is also evident she is knowledgeable about the different pieces in her store. From the artist to where a stone is found throughout the world, Patella will fill her customers with information.
"My favorite is Larimar, which is only found in the Dominican Republic. It reminds me of the ocean. It's one of the rarest semi-precious gemstones," Patella explained. "I have bi-colored quartz found in Brazil, a natural occurring stone where it goes from a darker brown to a yellow. There is rainbow moonstone. It glows blue to purple."
Within the jewelry cases in JaTori's, small information cards lay next to the different collections of gemstones. The cards have facts and history of the stones.
"It's just different tidbits about the stone so that customers know what they're buying," said Patella. "And I'm still learning, too. There are so many stones."
JaTori's Gems also sells intricate sterling silver pieces with no stones, as well as basic sterling silver chains. The store carries a wide range of jewelry, from the gemstone pieces to seashell pieces to earrings. Of course, everything is a bit unique.
"I have everything from ankle bracelets to toe rings," Patella said. "But even my toe rings are a little different."
Although she isn't getting in as much beach time as she's used to, JaTori's Gems is all worth it.
"I'm having a lot of fun," said Patella, "and doing what I love."
JaTori's Gems is located at 920 Asbury Ave., Ocean City. The store can be reached by calling (609) 391-6571 or by fax at (609) 391-6572.