Columbus, Ohio USA
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provides European service and style
by Karen Edwards
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Alex Khvalsky, owner of Alexanders Jewelers in the Short North,
turned a lifelong passion, older quality watches, into a fulfilling career
selling pre-owned watches and other unique jewelry.
Photo © Rick Borgia
For one and a half years, the unassuming man inside the storefront at 689 N. High St. has been quietly tending to business, taking care of dozens of customers who come in looking for the stylish, the unique – for quality. And they find it here at Alexanders Jewelers where owner Alex Khvalsky offers his one-of-a-kind jewelry at reasonable prices and with the kind of individual, personalized service that seems more Old World European than America’s typical “hit-the-button-for-service” style.
There is a reason for that, of course. Khvalsky is Russian by birth. He emigrated to the United States at the age of 12 years, along with his grandmother and recently divorced mother. Call it clichéd, but like most immigrants washing onto America’s shores, he and his family were in search of a better life and more freedom than that offered by Russia’s fledgling democracy. Still, Khvalsky is quick to point out that he comes from the “real” Russia, the old Russia – best exemplified, perhaps, by his hometown, St. Petersburg.
Upon their arrival in America, Khvalsky’s family quickly set up home in Boston where his mother became one of the first women engineers at a major Boston company – “a structural engineer,” he says, but when she remarried, the family moved again – this time to Khvalsky’s new stepfather’s home in Columbus.
Deciding on a career
When it came time for college, Khvalsky attended Ohio State University, initially as a premed student – “But I discovered medicine wasn’t for me,” Khvalsky says. “I’m the kind of individual who is obsessed with finding answers. I believe there is an answer for every question, but medicine isn’t like that. It’s a science,” he says – and an inexact science at that. In medicine, sometimes answers aren’t apparent for years. And sometimes there are no answers at all.
“I switched to business,” Khvalsky says, “I talked to professors and some of my friends, and all of them said that business would better suit my personality.”
After his undergraduate studies, Khvalsky went on to the Fisher Business College at OSU, and eventually earned his Masters in Business Administration. He was ready for corporate America – he had even lined up a job in Chicago working for a major pharmaceutical company.
“I had rented an apartment and was ready to go,” Khvalsky says. But, at the last minute, he decided against moving. “I wanted to stay close to my mother, and by now, I’ve really grown to like Columbus,” he explained.
But what would he do now?
“I’m grateful for my business degree,” Khvalsky says, “but I don’t think you go to college for a degree. You go to college for an education.”
And Khvalsky’s business degree had given him the education he needed to succeed as an entrepreneur, so the Russian émigré decided to take the leap into self-employment and turn one of his lifelong passions into a business.
“I’ve always been passionate about watches,” says Khvalsky. And not just any watch, either. He loved the older, high-end Rolexes and Cartiers which he now sells in his Short North shop. (Khvalsky’s first shop was located in the Easton area, but he decided to move to the Short North because the location “seemed more like a destination” and because the Short North clientele are more interested in actually buying, instead of just wandering in and looking, he says – a common shopowner problem at any mall.)
At Alexanders Jewelers, Khvalsky’s watches are all pre-owned – gently pre-owned, Khvalsky adds – much like the watches he, himself, has worn most of his life.
“There really isn’t any other place in town where you can go to buy one of the older, quality watches,” Khvalsky says. “Anywhere else, you’d have to buy them new.”
What that means is Alexanders Jewelers is able to sell some very high-end watches to you at very reasonable prices. “These watches are in great condition, close to mint,” says Khvalsky. But because they have been gently owned in another life, he is able to bring down the selling price. Here, you can pick up one of his investment-quality watches for anywhere from $6,000 to $40,000, depending on the brand and the watch itself.
The jewelry line
Khvalsky realized, of course, that he couldn’t make much of a business selling watches only, so he has added other types of jewelry to his collection over the years.
But he also wasn’t about to become another cookie-cutter jewelry store selling the same standard rings, necklaces, and cuff links as the competition. As a result, his jewelry is as unique as his watches, although all of the jewelry (unlike the watches) is new.
If you happen to be shopping for a Valentine’s Day gift for someone special this year, this may be your “go-to” store because the selection can’t help but be something she (or he) hasn’t seen before in Columbus.
“We lean toward European designs,” Khvalsky says – as well as the unusual. For example, you’ll find as much platinum and stainless steel jewelry here as you will the more traditional gold and silver.
And if you still haven’t found what you’re looking for, Khvalsky can custom design a piece that will win your heart.
It’s part of that Old World service he offers – individual attention and going that extra mile to provide you with a stone, a setting, a design that you’ll cherish for years.
Despite his Russian roots, Khvalsky is as Americanized – and, one might argue, Columbus-ized – as anyone can be.
“I don’t go back to Russia,” he answers, when asked if he ever returns to his birthplace for either business or pleasure. “There is nothing there that interests me now.”
He does say he takes the occasional European vacation – to ski, or to tour. But Russia? No.
Besides, he says, he’s far too busy with his jewelry business as well as the new clothing store he opened about 8 months ago at 721 N. High Street to spend much time anywhere else. You may have seen the new place – it’s called G & Co, selling contemporary casual clothing, including high-end denim.
“It’s doing pretty well,” says Khvalsky.
Both stores give Khvalsky contact with people, and the ability to satisfy an assortment of needs – all of which meets his own needs, he claims.
Communicating with people, finding out what it is they want, then being able to meet that need and make them happy – that’s the best part of the job,” he says.
And the worst?
“There isn’t any worst part of this job. It’s all good.”
Alexanders Jewelers, located at 689 N. High St., is open Tuesday through Saturday 12 to 8pm. Call 614-233-6666 for more informaiton.
©2007 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.