Adorning Kauai For 68 Years

Milt Ozaki
Owner, Robert’s Jewelry

Please tell us about your business. We are the oldest jewelry store on Kauai. We’re now in our 68th year. We specialize in mostly Hawaiian Heirloom jewelry, but carry a little bit of everything else. We have diamonds and plumeria jewelry for visitors and locals. We also carry Po Sun Hon, a hand-carved jewelry that used to be known as Ming’s Jewelry. We also repair jewelry – some we do here and some we take to our factory that does the work for us. In addition, we clean people’s jewelry at no charge, even if it was bought elsewhere, and people can sell their gold, diamonds and silver here. We are located in Lihue.

Do you have any other locations? We have another business in Hanapepe, which is actually the original store. It’s a large store that sells men’s and ladies’ clothing, Shiseido cosmetics and jewelry.

What is your most popular item? Our Hawaiian Heirloom jewelry – customized bracelets, rings and other items.

What is Hawaiian Heirloom jewelry? The tradition goes back to the days of royalty, when Queen Liliuokalani first received it from the British. At that time, the British had black enamel jewelry designated as a symbol of mourning. When they presented it to the queen, and I’m not sure exactly who died, somehow it became a Hawaiian tradition after that. That’s why you have old English lettering on Hawaiian jewelry. Most people now put their names on the jewelry translated in Hawaiian, or their children’s names or something of that nature.

How did this business start? My dad Robert started Robert’s clothing and shoes, and my Uncle Henry sold jewelry. When I got back into the business in the 1970s, we bought out my uncle, who wanted to retire, and the jewelry store became part of our overall operation.

Why did you decide to stay in the family business? Half of it was feeling a little bit obligated, although I was never pressured to join the business, but it always was offered. The other half was because I wanted to be connected to home after being away and coming back to Kauai. I grew up on the Westside and attended Mid-Pacific Institute on Oahu. I went off to Drake University, and then I went into the Air Force and came back to help run the business.

What makes you get up every day and go to work? Before I was involved with the jewelry side of the store, I was involved with men’s clothing. I actually didn’t like jewelry. I was forced to help in that department during a busy period, and I realized how happy the customers are when they’re in a jewelry store. So I’ve become more connected with our customers. We have repeat customers from the Mainland and here. It’s a happy feeling to have a jewelry store. I’m primarily here, and my son Todd works in Hanapepe. It’s just a good feeling knowing that people trust us.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of having this business? It’s not money. It has to be the satisfaction of knowing we’re doing things that we can be successful at and be fair.

What is your key to long-term business success? Reputation is everything in jewelry. We’ve always tried to make sure our reputation is kept and our integrity. When people come to shop for jewelry, we have to sell trust first, and then the product and service.

What’s the most challenging aspect of having a business? Things are always changing. The specific statistic I’ve heard about regarding a third generation succeeding in a family business in America is 14 percent. But I feel confident Todd can do it. Fortunately, we have a head start with a good following and reputation.

What sets your business apart from others? The length of time we’ve been in business automatically brings trust. People tell us all the time that they trust us, and it’s nice to know.

Open weekdays, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturdays, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Hanapepe is open until 9 p.m. Fridays

2976 Kress St., Lihue 3837 Hanapepe Road, Hanapepe