ST. ALBANS — On Monday, Aug. 1, Jeff Eaton wished his wife, Vicki, a happy anniversary — which confused her.
“What do you mean?” Vicki wondered. “Today isn’t our anniversary.”
Then she remembered: “Ohhh yeeeaaah.”
Aug. 1 marked Jeff and Vicki Eatons’ 10-year anniversary as the owners of Eaton’s Fine Jewelry, located on St. Albans City’s Main Street.
“It seems like the 10 years flew right by,” Jeff said on Aug. 2, while seated beside Vicki at their store.
Vicki said, “It sure doesn’t seem like 10 years, but we’ve seen many happy people in that time.”
In retrospect, Vicki was nervous on that first day of business: Aug. 1, 2006. At the time, she and Jeff had just $300, lots of faith in God and empty showcases for a month. To start, they offered watch batteries and repairs. Then, vendors offered Eaton’s Fine Jewelry up-front stock, based on Jeff’s reputation in the field, and let he and Vicki pay later.
“This is one of the few fields where that can happen,” Jeff said.
The Eatons, who have been married for about a dozen years, actually worked together at Drinkwater’s Jewelry, which operated for decades out of the current Eaton’s site in St. Albans. Some longtime customers still refer to Eaton’s Fine Jewelry as “Drinkwater’s.”
“Sometimes, people still make checks out to Drinkwater’s,” Jeff said.
“We get a kick out of it,” Vicki added.
Vicki was at Drinkwater’s for six months. She and Jeff were married for about 18 months when the Drinkwater family announced it was closing the store in 2006.
When the Eatons, of Highgate Springs, opened Eaton’s Fine Jewelry, they intended to offer service and stock that would be affordable and sensible to Franklin County’s working middle class.
Today, Eaton’s Fine Jewelry is one of two fine jewelry stores located in the Franklin, Grand Isle and Lamoille County region, making Eaton’s a four-season shopping destination for many in the tri-county area.
Eaton’s has a ranking of 1 from the Jewelers Board Trade — the best in the industry, on a scale of 1 to 4. In the first year of business, the Independent Jewelers Organization asked Eaton’s to join its invitation-only group — a rarity in their line of work.
“That’s really been an asset to us,” Vicki said. “We have the best staff on Earth, too.”
Not only does Eaton’s support local efforts (Martha’s Kitchen, for one) and such national organizations as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, United Way and Teen Challenge, the store lives up to its tag line: “Come as a customer. Leave as a friend.”
That line is one of Vicki’s favorites in the popular radio spots she delivers with her own Amy Poehler-esque timbre. In the ads, she often — and assertively, with tongue-in-cheek – goads single guys to get to Eaton’s and buy their loved one that long-awaited diamond.
Vicki Eaton is a Fairfield native and 1979 graduate of Bellows Free Academy-St. Albans who has also lived in Italy, Connecticut, New Mexico and Maine. A Rochester, N.Y., native, Jeff Eaton worked in the cattle breeding industry before he became a jeweler for Drinkwater’s.
The Eatons have a blended family of three grown children, and they just welcomed their fifth grandchild to the world: Josiah Daniel — “the next jeweler in line,” Jeff joked.
The Eatons’ niece Maddie, 10, has expressed interest in working at the jewelry store; it began when she started sitting on Uncle Jeff’s lap at his jewelry bench, when she was a little girl. Vicki is semi-retired, so perhaps Maddie has a future at Eaton’s Fine Jewelry; the owners currently have no succession plan.
For now, the Eatons are focused on their three-day anniversary celebration, scheduled for Sept. 15-17.
“We’re still enjoying this,” Jeff said of the store. “We like working for ourselves. We get to make a little money, but the most important thing is that our time is our own — especially our family time. You can’t beat that.”