Thursday, February 19, 2015

Visiting LCJewelery - another of my favourite downtown St. Catharines things.

It's been about a month since I last wrote about another of my favourite downtown businesses or enterprises, and since my ongoing series in 2015 is supposed to be a monthly thing, we're about due for another update.

When you drive down Lake Street past Montebello Park and stop at the lights at Ontario Street, what do you usually notice while waiting for the light to change?  Most likely it is the beauty and sometimes the activity going on in Montebello Park.  Or perhaps you're just looking at the traffic and wishing the light would finally turn.

But when was the last time you turned to your left while waiting there and noticed that well-preserved set of row houses on the south side of Lake Street?  Probably too long.  One of the things you've been missing is one of the more interesting downtown St. Catharines businesses that is currently celebrating their 25th anniversary of pleasing customers in Niagara and beyond.

Lessard-Coutu Custom Jewellers is located at 4 1/2 Lake Street, neatly tucked away in the first of those row houses.  Until three or four years ago, it was all too easy to miss the business entirely unless the one sign outside caught your eye.  Now extra signage brings a little more attention to the location, although people often times still manage to miss it.

I paid a visit this week to learn just how a business some people don't even know exists has managed to carve a nice little market niche out for themselves, building a solid client base in the process.  I was met at the door by Maurice Coutu, otherwise known to one and all simply as Moe, and he welcomed me in to the showroom and sat me down in front of a giant computer screen, which is ground zero for the design process that takes place when you visit.

While they do sell many ready-made pieces sourced from all over the globe, their raison d'etre continues to be custom-designed jewellery.  If you see a design in a magazine somewhere or simply have an idea you would like to realize for that someone special in your life, this is where your dreams can be realized efficiently and affordably.

Together we scanned picture after picture of custom-designed pieces made to order for customers and they range from simple to simply stunning.  One of my favourites and typical of the personal service they offer is an engagement ring that includes in the design a backdrop of the mountain scape the lovers visited when they first met.

Moe walked me through the design process when a prospective client visits the shop with an idea. Throughout the creative process, the design can be altered and tweeked to make it just right, both in regards to the design and the price.  Being a design on the computer, anything can be altered with little effort at all.  But it is when that design is approved and the actual creation of the piece is underway the real magic begins.

As we descended the stairs to the basement, you get the feeling you are visiting Moe's inner sanctum.  This is where the wax moulds are made, and the manufacturing process begins.  He shows me the options for different coloured gold and how he achieves the exact carat specified by the client.  We also viewed the trusty kiln that is fired up regularly in the manufacturing process.  But it is the newly-acquired 3-D printer that holds pride of place downstairs, creating those moulds from the design approved upstairs between designer and client.

Moe tells me before he invested recently in the 3-D printer, he would have to send the design out to a manufacturer in Toronto, and each week he would travel back and forth with the hard pieces needed to create the design.  If something did not meet the client's expectations, back it would go to Toronto the following week for changes to be made.

Now, everything can be done in house, greatly reducing both the time and the cost involved in designing the jewellery.  While a 3-D printer is expensive, Moe considers it an investment he can't afford not to make.  Each job now costs less by doing it himself than if he sent it out to be done elsewhere; he also maintains complete control from initial design to completed piece.

When it comes to the time factor, consider this:  if need be, a ring can be designed and manufactured in house in a fraction of the time it used to take.  Moe tells the story of one gentleman who needed an engagement ring custom-designed in 24 hours.  A tall order to be sure, but Moe and his creative team did it; the process began at 5 pm and was done and ready for the customer the following day at 4.

Now, a couple of qualifiers here.  Most times Moe likes to have more time to work on the project and a month to six weeks is preferable so they can get the design just right.  And if you want to recreate some gaudy bauble you saw when you last toured the Tower of London, well, that can take some time.

But LCJewellery prides themselves on quality and efficiency, so if you need something done in a week, hey, they'll do it for you.  And the piece will be truly custom-designed, not out of a catalogue somewhere.

That brings us to the price.  Oh sure, you can easily spend $25.000 dollars on a design should you wish to.  But Moe stresses you don't have to.  They create pieces to meet any budget, large or small.  And that is the true magic here, I think.  Anyone can enjoy a custom-designed piece different from anything else you'll find in a mass-produced marketplace, and at a price you can afford.

Lessard-Coutu Jewellers is just one of the many businesses open and waiting to serve you in downtown St. Catharines, offering unique services you simply can't find elsewhere.  And they are yet another example of why I love living, working and shopping in the heart of the city.

You can check out their website at, and also find them on Facebook.  Their phone number is 905-984-8622.  Or you can find Lessard-Coutu Jewellers at 4 1/2 Lake Street; just look to your left rather than your right if you are coming down Lake Street and you can't miss them.

There's lots to discover in downtown St. Catharines!

February 19th, 2015.

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