Habeeb’s Jewelers shares decades of diamond knowledge in Corpus Christi
A recent open house at Habeeb Jewelers in Corpus Christi put the quality and value of this 63-year-old business on display alongside its impressive collection of quality gems. Staff greeted customers with smiles, free refreshments, and a tour of the store. They also helped build customized wish lists for the future.
“We ask customers to write down a list of items they would like to have one day, so if their loved ones come into our store, we can pull out the wish list so the gift giver can know what to give,” said Linda Kay Habeeb, second-generation owner of Habeeb’s Jewelers. “When you walk into Habeeb’s Jewelers, automatically you become like family.”
Customers such as David Walter of Kenedy were impressed by the care and expertise they found at Habeeb’s Jewelers.
“I was searching for gifts for relatives and friends,” he told Corpus Christi Business News. “Linda Habeeb took the time to ask personal questions about each of them, such as their hairstyles, physical appearances. From my answers, she advised me what styles of jewelry would be compatible for each of them.”
She even helped him find a vendor who specialized in antique pocket watches, which he wanted for himself.
“I found one from the year 1865,” Walters said.
Having a personal jeweler is an increasingly rare commodity in today’s world of online shopping, Habeeb said.
“Chain stores and online retailers are causing many mom-and-pop stores to shut down,” she said. “Thankfully, because of the strong relationships we have built with our customers and the community, we stand out from the big-box stores or the internet retailers. They don’t provide the kind of personal care and attention you get from having a local jeweler.”
The legacy of customer care goes back to Habeeb’s parents and grandparents, the original jewelers.
“The whole key to my parent’s success was their honesty and sincere care for customers' needs,” Habeeb said. “They treated each customer like part of their family. My mother knew her customers so well that they trusted her enough to choose an appropriate gift for their loved ones, have it wrapped and ready for pick up. Nobody ever complained or returned the product because they were happy with what my mother chose for them.”
Linda’s mother, Marie Salem Habeeb, grew up working at the Salem family grocery store, which back then was on Leopard Street. Her father, Emil Habeeb, was born in San Francisco from Lebanese descendants. The eldest of six children, he moved with his family to Corpus Christi to begin a new life.
When Emil Habeeb’s parents divorced, he had to quit school to support his mother and siblings. He began by delivering telegrams for Western Union. When he married Marie Salem in 1948, he was hired as an apprentice to her brother Joe Salem at his jewelry store at Six Points. A jeweler and philanthropist, Salem served as state representative for Corpus Christi from 1969 to 1977.
“Uncle Joe came to my dad and handed him the keys and asked him to run the store,” Linda Habeeb said. “My dad had to learn everything from the ground up, and he worked with my uncle for years, until my dad decided he wanted to open his own jewelry store.”
Emil and Marie's first store was at Town and Country Center on Alameda Street. According to Linda, Habeeb’s Jewelers was one of the first stores at the shopping center. It opened Sept. 29, 1956.
“It was a long and narrow store,” she said. “We carried a large line of silver and crystal with a specialty in diamond jewelry. We even had a very devoted employee who worked with my parents for 35 years. We even had a post office inside the store.”
Linda Habeeb keeps albums and scrapbooks of old photos and news clippings documenting the history of the family business, including photos of the very first store and employees.
The family business eventually expanded to Annaville and Portland. Linda Habeeb managed the Annaville store when she was 18 years old.
When Hurricane Celia hit Corpus Christi in 1970, Habeeb’s parents were out of town. Since she couldn’t be in two places at once, she chose to protect the Corpus Christi store, which was larger and had the most inventory. The Annaville store was destroyed by the hurricane then looted.
“When my dad decided to rebuild the Annaville location, I opted to quit college where I was studying biology,” Habeeb said. “My dad was insistent on education, and we argued about it, but I won because I really wanted to help get our Annaville store rebuilt, and I decided that running a jewelry store was my life's destiny.”
Entrepreneurship runs in the family as the three Habeeb daughters — Mary Victoria “Vicki” Mitchell, Linda Kay Habeeb, and Camille Habeeb Hojnacki — each established their own jewelry business. Habeeb’s Jewelers sits next door to Camille's Original Jewelry Designs. Later this month, Victoria’s Jewels will open in the same shopping center.
“We have something for every budget,” Linda Habeeb said. “Each person who walks through the door has different needs and different resources. They could be eyeing a $5,000 engagement ring or maybe only have $200 and need our help finding the very best diamond within that range. We will definitely find something for our customers.”
To set themselves apart from online retailers, Habeeb’s Jewelers provides free jewelry cleaning and inspection, free lessons on how to choose diamonds, and open house events before special occasions such as Christmas or Valentine’s Day.
“You can’t get this personal face-to-face attention buying off the internet,” said Jessica Sachanowicz, Linda Habeeb’s daughter. Sachanowicz helps during open houses by providing free, fresh-baked desserts. Her children, 12-year-old Adam, 10-year-old Abbey, and 8-year-old Hailey already assist behind the counter, waiting on customers and learning the trade just as Linda Habeeb and her sisters did at their age.
At this particular open house, visitor Elizabeth Vasquez had some of her own fond memories of Habeeb’s to share.
“I have known this family and this store since high school,” said Vasquez, who bought her daughter pearl earrings for her first communion from Habeeb’s. “When you walk in, you feel like family. You get incredible lessons about what you’re going to buy. They deliver excellent and personal customer service.”
As for the continued success of Habeeb's Jewelers, Linda Habeeb credits her parents.
"I learned from the very best, and I am so very proud to continue their legacy,” Habeeb said. “I hope my children and grandchildren will continue what their grandparents started so that these doors will never close.”
Habeeb’s Jewelers, Camille’s Original Designs, and Victoria’s Jewels are located inside Habeeb Square at 6343 South Padre Island Drive in Corpus Christi. For more information, call (361) 991-1264 or visit their Facebook page.
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