Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Rita Caz: Short move, big improvement

In 23 years, Rita Caz Jewelry has moved just twice. The first move was from 108 Dayton Street, where Design Sleep is currently located, to a shop in Kings Yard, where proprietors Mark Crockett and Gail Zimmerman did business for 21 years. This spring they took over the largest space in Kings Yard, where Roger Hart had his gift shop. The new space is right next door to the old one.

The business is an eclectic combination of custom made jewelry and repairs, vintage guitars, music books and Cd's, and African artifacts and other kinds of art. As I enter the store for an interview, Mark is demonstrating a guitar by playing and singing a blues number, and Gail is showing some jewelry to a customer. The new space is especially well suited for its variety of uses. The guitars are upstairs in a loft where there is also a room for private guitar lessons. Downstairs in the basement, there are three rooms that are used for classes, events and manufacturing. The main floor, where the jewelry and artwork are displayed, is well lit by a huge wall of glass.

The "Caz" in the store's name was composed of the initials of the last names of the three original partners, Gail explained. Rita is not anyone in particular. It is a name they came up with after much deliberation.

"Rita is a name that crosses through the generations," Gail said. "It's distinguished, yet not stuffy, like us."

Why the move? According to Gail, it was a combination of factors. The space became available, it had room for more services, and it offered them an opportunity to get back to their original business plan: creating unique jewelry, allowing other artists to show their work, teaching classes in jewelry making, and maintaining a creative atmosphere.

Mark did his first jewelry apprenticeship in Yellow Springs, where he was raised, with Norman Mahan. That was in 1969. His co-apprentice at the time was Cary Moore, former husband of Marsha Walgren of Ohio Silver. He also apprenticed in Dayton and Phoenix, Ariz. and worked for Cab-N-Facet in Springfield for 14 years, before venturing out on his own.

"When we were in 108 Dayton Street, it was like a real gallery," Mark said. "We offered anyone who ate in Dick & Tom's (where the Sunrise is now) an opening in the gallery."

Employees Talitha Green and Mary Patterson, not only work there, but sell their own creations on consignment. The Crockett's daughter, Sarah, also has work on display.

How did guitars enter into the picture?

"Ten years ago, Gail told me if I bought another guitar, I would have to start selling them," Mark said.

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