Many small business owners start their career pursuing a passion. For Raul Fernandez, his love of watches lead him to start working at the age of 14 in a jewelry store owned by a family friend. Now, as the owner of Express Jewelers, located inside Ballston Common Mall, Raul has the opportunity to indulge in his passion for watches, along with offering a full line of colored gems, pearls, engagement rings and of course, watch batteries.
Raul opened his business in 1990, always knowing that he wanted to locate his store in a mall setting. "Steady traffic is key to the success of any small business, but especially to a store like mine that caters to a wide range of clientele," said Raul. "I really like getting to know my customers, especially the young couples who are just starting their marriage." Raul enjoys spending time with his customers, many of whom travel from as far away as Frederick, Maryland.
Raul loves working in Arlington, and tells us that the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor is one of the most vibrant business areas in northern Virginia. When he first opened his business, he would walk the short distance each day from his home to his store. Now that his home is further away, he and his wife still walk around the neighborhood several times a week. "Customers have easy access to the mall, from both the metro and local buses," Raul tells us. "I really appreciate the public transportation options that are available to residents in Arlington."
When Raul first opened his store, he decided that he would offer a wide selection of affordable jewelry along with a full range of custom design and repair services. "Once I sell you something, you become my customer for life," says Raul. "In addition to offering no interest terms and a layaway program, I tell my customers that I guarantee your satisfaction, even if you drop your ring down the sink and into the disposal!"
One of Raul's most popular lines is the Lorenzo line, comprised of unique designed jewelry in sterling silver and gold coupled with colored gemstones. Many of Raul's customers also order jewelry from the Vatican Library Jewelry Collection, that includes rosaries, crosses, and other Italian inspired jewelry. "It's wonderful knowing many of my customers' children are now my customers. I feel very close to them when I help them select a gift that celebrates an important event in their lives."
In an era of cost-cutting and bargain deals, Raul believes that people still value his personalized service, and that has been a large factor in the success of his business. "Many of my customers have my cell phone number, and I have been called on more than one occasion to string a pearl necklace that suddenly broke before an important event or replace a watch battery for a client who was traveling overseas the following day." Raul knows that he could always make a good living working for someone else, but no one treats his customers the way he feels they should be treated. To Raul, that's the difference between having a regular job, and job that you love going to each day.