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A Seth Thomas clock ticks on the back wall of Hauser's Jewelry as the store is bombarded with deliveries of vases of flowers, gifts from loyal customers congratulating the Hausers on the opening of their new location in the Oyster Point Town Center. The clock, with the family name inscribed on its face, told time in Alfred Hauser's first store more than a century ago.
Amy, daughter of owners Lee and Vicki Hauser, is a member of the fifth generation of Hausers to work in the family business. She shares her family's enthusiasm for the grand opening in the Town Center.
"This is a big step for Newport News, so we want to be a part of it," said Amy, 33. The store opened April 3 and celebrated the grand opening of retail stores in Merchant's Walk last Friday with a ribbon cutting.
"The trend now is this urban-atmosphere shopping experience," Vicki Hauser said. "If we want to do what our customers want, we need to go where they want to be."
Although the store has a rich family history, it includes innovative technology. Owner Lee Hauser works with a computerized engraving machine for corporate gifts and a laser welder that protects stones such as emeralds from cracking or expanding in the repair process.
Fiber-optic lighting, which brings out the colors of the stones, was installed into the display cases recently.
It's quite an evolution from 1871, when Alfred Jacob Sr. began the business after immigrating to the United States from France. He opened a watch repair shop in downtown Newport News, and although store locations moved several times over the years, a Hauser was always in the jewelry business. Vicki and Lee Hauser opened Findley's jewelry store in 1977 in Langley Square Shopping Center. After Lee's grandfather retired and closed his Hidenwood shop in 1986, Vicki and Lee changed their store name to Hauser's, and in 1998 the family business celebrated its 100th anniversary.
"It's such a warm, loving, caring environment," said Joanne Gordon, who has worked with the Hausers for more than 10 years.
The Hausers installed a security buzzer after an armed robbery occurred in their Langley store a few years ago. Although some customers might feel that this made the store appear selective, the Hausers simply wanted everyone to feel secure.
Customers such as Sandra Carlson, who has frequented Hauser's for about six years, keep coming back.
"Everyone there is very friendly," said Carlson, whose favorite lines include Roberto Coin. "There's no pressure to buy. There are no ill feelings, whether you don't buy anything or you walk out with 10 pieces."
And although it is a small family business (including Vicki's brother and Amy's husband, as well), they have different roles in the business to avoid stepping on each other's toes.
"I think every generation brings a different perspective," Vicki said.
Lee is the goldsmith, and spends the majority of his time repairing jewelry, while Vicki pays the bills and manages customer service. Amy, who studied art in college, is involved with the aesthetics and helping to design store ads.
The store is a certified member of the American Gem Society, and the Hausers visit seminars on diamonds and other gems to stay up to date on the quality of the latest products.
"Being a consumer myself, I really am critical. I really watch to see that people are taken care of, because we try so hard to be friendly and to make people feel comfortable," Vicki said.
Customers shopping for diamonds are taken into the diamond room, where one of the store's two gemologists guide them through their purchase.
"It's important to know why you're paying a lot of money for this little tee-tiny thing that's going to be on your finger for the rest of your life," said Vicki.