Thrift store finds at South Jordan Savers
Aug 05, 2019 10:29AM
By Linnea Lundgren
Whimsical rings, especially ones that feature animals, go fast at the South Jordan Savers. (Linnea Lundgren/City Journals)
By Linnea Lundgren | [email protected]
Sometimes the best treasures to be found at a thrift store aren’t things. They’re people.
At the South Jordan Savers thrift store, Jerry Leder works behind the jewelry counter. His job description lists him as “jewelry pricer,” but that’s only the start.
He’s also a longtime jewelry professional with experience in diamond sales and antique appraisals. He’s a fashion advisor adept at bringing bling into tight budgets, a jewelry historian (ask him about World War II bride rings) and a thrift store aficionado. But perhaps most importantly, Leder is a matchmaker, with a goal to bring the joy of jewelry into people’s lives.
“I love matching a piece of jewelry with someone who will appreciate it and enjoy it,” Leder says. It’s an emotional investment, he says, because jewelry makes you feel good about yourself. And, it helps when that jewelry — be it costume or genuine — is at bargain basement prices.
On this Tuesday, when senior citizens get 30% off, Leder is playing matchmaker with regular customer Terry Huffaker and a shoebox full of earrings and necklaces he’s collected for her.
“Stand back for me,” Leder tells 67-year-old Huffaker, who drives 100 miles from Woodruff, Utah for a jewelry splurge. She backs up to model a gray tear-drop beaded necklace that complement a pair of mother-of-pearl earrings that Leder has selected. Those earrings, Leder says, elongate her neck, plus they’re “fun and artsy.”
“You’re going home with these,” he tells her, “even if I have to take you to the register myself.”
With finds ranging from $1.99 to $4.99, Huffaker, a self-declared country girl, beams with satisfaction. “She looks like she just walked into someone’s art festival,” Leder remarks.
Huffaker is happy to take his advice and selections. “He knows jewelry, he’s passionate about jewelry, but most of all, he is your friend,” she says.
It was Leder’s father — an owner of hotels and restaurants in Wyoming and Idaho — who cemented his customer service philosophy. “He taught me [to] give customers the experience,” Leder says. As a salesperson, “you are spending their money. Give them something to remember and they’ll come back. You build your clientele not on the one-hit-wonder, but by understanding that purchasing is an experience.”
Leder’s career in jewelry started early. His love of thrift stores even earlier. In fifth grade, he swept floors at Orville’s Secondhand Store in his hometown of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for a dollar, plus a dollar’s worth of items. At 12, he worked at a bead shop and, at 15, he had five stores featuring jewelry he crafted. After moving to Salt Lake City at 21, he worked in the diamond business and later as an antique jewelry expert for ZCMI, a luxury-goods stylist for Nordstrom and a jewelry fraud specialist at eBay.
Two years ago, he retired. Living in nearby West Jordan, Leder was drawn to the South Jordan Savers for twice-weekly jewelry hunts. Soon he was working there part-time.
Leder says his daily routine is a process of “unearthing, rescuing and marrying.” Before customers arrive, the manager brings Leder a jewelry bin which he goes through piece by piece, often painstakingly untangling necklaces to reveal a prized piece in the mess. “With my background, I am able to see what things are worth,” he says. “But you can’t charge retail for it.”
Mostly, he finds costume jewelry along with some fine and/or vintage pieces. Once in a while he hits the mother lode. In his own thrift store shopping experiences, he’s found a $700 Alaskan placer gold nugget encased in a bracelet for $0.99 and a Tiffany bracelet worth $400 that he bought for $5.99. At Savers he’s found 18-karat gold dowry bracelets from India worth $3,000. He finds a lot of gold chains from the ‘70s and ‘80s.
“Young people like silver now, so gold is considered old people’s stuff,” he says.
Once he found a $2,000 emerald bracelet in the bottom of a bin. “Really?” he asks. “Who gives up a bracelet like this?”
He answers that question. Families donate the jewelry of the deceased. People discard jewelry after major life changes. Sometimes people mix good jewelry with their costume jewelry and donate it all. Whatever the reason, donations benefit the store’s nonprofit partner Big Brothers Big Sisters.
One day he hopes to find jewelry by French designer René Lalique or Russian jeweler Peter Carl Fabergé. Until then, Leder studiously sets out jewelry for display, as if each were a precious piece. He wants customers to stop by the counter, talk with him, admire the selection and try on some things, he says, to “find a piece that belongs to you.”
“I try to give people an experience, make them excited about what the possibilities are in [that] piece of jewelry,” he said. Not everyone can see the possibilities of things in a thrift store, he says, so to help his customers, Leder offers “a second pair of eyes.” At a thrift store, that’s the real find.