Q and A: Stephen Perri at Perri Jewelers
June 15, 2012
Perri Jewelers, 13 N. Stone Ave., has been a Downtown fixture since 1945, first at 37 W. Congress St. and then at 129½ W. Congress. Its latest vastly scaled-down incarnation dates to June 2004, when Stephen Perri took on the mantle of the family operation after his father had a stroke. But Perri is a bench jeweler and has been doing all the repairs at Perri Jewelers since he was 19.
Q: Why did you keep the store going?
Perri: Initially, we were going to close. I have two sisters out of town. I took a semester off when dad had the stroke. I could not close it. It was in my bones. I knew it had to get smaller. I didn’t know it would be this small. It was big before, with a basement, five times the size of this store.
Q: Doing repairs is rather old fashioned.
Perri: We do repairs. It’s a trust thing. People keep on coming. I enjoy working with my hands. We also do mechanical watch repair.
Q: Perri Jewelers isn’t your only job.
Perri: I teach English at Salpointe High School. I don’t get here until after school, about 3:30. All school breaks I’m here.
Q: What do you teach?
Perri: American literature and humanities.
Q: Why is literature and reading important?
Perri: It causes us to think and use our imagination.
Q: How long have you been teaching?
Perri: 21 years.
Q: How do you deal with high school students?
Perri: It’s tougher to keep their attention. Getting them to read anything at length is a challenge.
Q: Why do you keep teaching instead of just spending the whole day at Perri Jewelers?
Perri: Because I love to teach. I could be a jeweler full-time.
Q: Do most of your customers live or work Downtown?
Perri: Most of them, 80 percent of them work Downtown. They are city workers, county workers, lawyers. We’ve gotten some new customers with UniSource and Providence. So that’s nice.
Q: If they are all workers, when do they get to your store?
Perri: Every day at lunch, there is a busy time between 11 and 1.
Q: How is having a Downtown jewelry story different from being at the mall or in a strip mall?
Perri: People know us. They trust us. It’s cozy. There’s personal service. We’re going to stand behind all our work. A lot of the time, we tackle jobs that nobody else will do.
Q: What do you like to do when you’re away from the store?
Perri: I’m a big baseball fan. I went to UofA and follow UofA athletics. I read when I can.
Q: How long have you lived in Tucson?
Perri: Born and raised here, since 1968.
Q: Where do you like to eat Downtown?
Perri: I love HUB, I like Caffe Milano and On a Roll. 47 Scott is also nice.
Q: What would make Downtown a better place?
Perri: Free parking, more retail.
Q: What impact do you see student housing having?
Perri: Here’s one thing it could do, student housing makes a demand for other businesses to come down here.