Almanac

News - May 23, 2007

People: Farewell to gold fever

Hello to Tudal Family Winery for longtime local jeweler Marilyn Tudal Fidge

by Karen MacLaughlin

When it came time to sign on the dotted line for another five-year lease at Timothy Fidge & Co. jewelry store in downtown Menlo Park, owner Marilyn Tudal Fidge asked herself, "Do I really want to do this?"

She took over the store in 1989 when it was in Palo Alto and when her sons were 3 and 5 years old. Her husband, whom she met on a blind date while working as a flight attendant for TWA, was killed in a plane crash in April of that year.

He had founded the original custom jewelry shop, "Gold Fever," on Hamilton Avenue in Palo Alto in 1976. Three years later, the store moved to Town & Country Village shopping center in Palo Alto, and in 1985, he changed its name to "Timothy Fidge & Co."

In 1999, Ms. Fidge moved the store to 642 Santa Cruz Ave. in Menlo Park.

Although her husband was fond of repeating that no one ever died for lack of jewelry, Ms. Fidge remarks with good humor, "It's amazing how many fires you have to put out in this business." To many people, jewelry is as necessary as breathing and managing a jewelry store can feel like driving a fire engine.

Ms. Fidge decided not to renew the lease on the jewelry store in order to take on more responsibility for running her family's winery in St. Helena, the Tudal Family Winery. (Her father died of Alzheimer's last year. Her mother is 85.)

The vintner's vocation beckons her with an urgency that is palpable. When Timothy Fidge & Co. closes its doors in July, she intends to devote herself to the cooking classes, organic gardens, and especially, pouring privileges she enjoys so much.

The closing of the jewelry shop will affect the lives of seven employees. Several have worked there for years.

Four saleswomen, two full-time gemologists and two full-time goldsmiths have been needed to serve customers "from concept to finished design," says Ms. Fidge.

All the work is completed on the premises. Nothing (except platinum) has to be sent out, she emphasizes.

The staff acts like a family. Surprisingly, like a happy family. They have water skied and ridden the Napa wine train together. Most admit to being in their "fabulous fifties."

Mary Finkel of Menlo Park has been employed full-time in sales, with one hiatus, since the Gold Fever days. The first time she walked into the store, she offered to pay Tim for a ring she had picked out (but could not afford) by working for him during the Christmas season.

Although she knew nothing about precious stones, she was hired and is now unanimously deemed "very knowledgeable" by her fellow employees. She helped the store through two of its moves, including the one to Santa Cruz Avenue in 1999 and trusts that "something will turn up" for her to do after the store closes in July.

Twenty-five years ago and fresh out of high school, Nancy Quinn of Los Gatos flunked the "gem quiz" Tim Fidge gave her. But she, too, was hired as a salesperson.

Like Ms. Finkel, she has since learned to tell the difference between gemstone and paste. She and Juanita Sanchez of Redwood City, who has worked at the store for 18 years, are part-time salespeople. For their "day" jobs, Ms. Quinn works as an occupational therapist and Ms. Sanchez, as a school guidance information specialist.

Susan Fetterly of Atherton is a travel agent who has been working in sales part time at the store for a year. She met Ms. Fidge as a client. In referring to the impending closure, she says, "I don't want to lose the connection with these guys!"

Leona Baciocco of San Bruno and Mike Dobry from the East Bay are the staff gemologists. Ms. Baciocco has been with the store for eight years and Mr. Dobry for 15.

It has been "worth driving here" all those years for the opportunity to "do things that are different" and use "finer, more unusual stones" than other jewelers, says Mr. Dobry.

Ms. Baciocco plans to "have a nice summer" when Fidge & Co. closes. Mr. Dobry's plans are not yet fixed, but he notes that "the gemological community is not that large," and it was through a colleague that he found his current work.

Harry ("If you can't find it, it's probably on Harry's bench") Tschaplizki of Daly City has been setting diamond stones for 13 years. He also loves to be out on the sales floor, especially when he's mistaken for the manager, says Ms. Fidge.

Lionel Nguyen of San Jose arrived in the U.S. from Vietnam in 1990. A goldsmith for 20 years, he has been at Fidge & Co. for one.

Among its other treasures, the store has a large, antique, iron safe that contains small vials of little gold casting grains that can be melted and molded into wearable works of art. The store lease expires on July 31, but the discounts displayed on the pieces in the showroom might empty it out before then. If you want a unique setting for your stone, now is the time.

Timony Fidge & Co., 642 Santa Cruz Ave., is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The store is closed on Sundays. For information, call 323-4653. For more information on the Tudal Family Winery go to www.tudalwinery.com.

Comments

Posted by Sharon Peterson, a resident of another community
on May 3, 2008 at 1:17 pm

Formerly of Los Altos, I purchased several beautiful pieces from Tim, and later Marilyn. My prized possession was Tim's "International Ring", named for the the International Jewelers' Award he won with this elegant and unusual ring. Last November I lost my ring. I can't stand to be without it. Today I searched the web and was disappointed to learn of the closing of the store. I will try to reach Marilyn, but in the meantime, does anyone know where the molds are located now?


Posted by Barbra Watkins, a resident of another community
on Oct 11, 2009 at 3:32 pm

I used to manage the Radio Shack around the corner from Gold Fever in Palo Alto. I fell in love with a beautiful sapphire and gold ring. I had to put it on law away, but went to visit it frequently, until it was paid off. I still wear it all the time. I also bought a cut out gold pendant, made by a friend of Tim's. I wanted a cutout of the logo of the Arabian Horse World Magazine, Arabians being my passion at the time. It is the size of a nickle and I wear it always. Lately my mother died and I inherited her and my father's wedding rings. I had them mounted in a horse shoe shaped frame, with the horse in its horse shoe frame hanging free inside it. It means I always have them close to me. The new pendant was designed by Gembrokers, in Santa Cruz, and they are truly wonderful people. I hope Ms Fidge appreciates how many of Tim's customers remember him and wear his work in his memory.


Posted by Bill Chandler, a resident of another community
on Dec 7, 2009 at 4:48 pm

I purchased my wedding ring from Tim (in 1985). It was a unique design (sort of an angled wave pattern across the top and the ring tapered around the finger. I've worn it all these years, but lost it this past year while working outside. Just sick. I wanted to contact Tim and see if I could get another made. So Sorry to hear that TIm has passed away in 89 and that the store had closed in 2007 <sad>. Yes, I too, would like to see if the molds still exist and who has them. I'd buy another in a minute!


Posted by dot clark, a resident of another community
on Mar 23, 2010 at 1:04 pm

WAY back, while Tim was still living in Washington state(?), he advertised in Sunset Magazine's Shopping Center, which was my responsibility. Don't know what he advetised, but in a phone conversation w/him, he said that Fidge was a truly unique name. Anyhow, when he moved south to Palo Alto I had him make a pair of earrngs for me which I treasure. This goes back more years than I care remember


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