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Santa Maria Sun / Biz Spotlight

The following article was posted on June 12th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 14 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 14, Issue 14

Spotlight on: Melby's Jewelers CEO Mark Melby

At Melby’s Jewelers in Santa Maria, a diamond ring sitting peacefully in a glass case represents a rich family history stemming all the way from Bergen, Norway.

Generations of jewelers
Melby’s Jewelers has been a family business since the 1940s and is still going strong.

The fine jewelry shop on East Clark Avenue began with current CEO Mark Melby’s grandfather, Arnold Melby, at the helm. In the early 1900s, Arnold’s father passed away from the flu epidemic after emigrating to America, and Arnold began making, repairing, and selling watches to support his family in Minnesota, and then Oregon. He later started his own family and established the Arnold M. Melby Jeweler store in Lompoc, but failed to keep the ball rolling after the Great Depression hit.

With hopes of saving the business, Arnold decided to buy an obsolete jewelry store in Santa Maria for $10. Without any inventory, he had no choice but to start from the ground up, slowly building a clientele as a watchmaker and jeweler. This led him to buy a better store for $5,000 from a man named H.C. Corey in 1943.

Arnold’s son Donald began working for the business just two years later, selling the first store. Then, in 1950, the newer and better store expanded to 2,000 square feet, which became what’s called the “Sterling Silver Room,” representing major manufacturers and carrying fine china and crystal. The family later expanded even more, changing the name to “The Gift Shop.” Mark Melby started his career with the shop in 1975, and after Arnold passed and Donald retired, Mark became the current president and CEO.

Now, Melby’s Jewelers is in its 91st year of business.

“When a couple comes in to buy an engagement ring, it’s a happy occasion,” Mark said, explaining why he enjoys the jewelry business. “People are always happy, whether it’s for an anniversary, a birthday, or a wedding. It’s dealing with the nicer parts of life.”

Melby’s provides a large diamond inventory and focuses on giving its customers as much education as possible on the different types of cuts and colors. It has a wide variety of services, including appraisals, jewelry insurance, manufacturing, custom design, engraving, laser inscribing, pearl and bead stringing, and repair.

“Custom design is a part of our business that seems to be growing quite a bit,” Mark said.

To get a custom-designed product, customers should bring in a picture of what they’d like, or ask for original design suggestions. From there, a jeweler will hand carve a wax model that will become the custom ring, have it approved by the customer, and have Melby’s produce the custom keepsake design within days.

The store works with various designers and manufacturers, including Lazare Diamonds, A&D Gem Corporation, Allison-Kaufman Company, and Breuning. It recently added a new sterling silver line called Elle, said Mark, who works with his son and current manager Aaron Sturges-Melby to add new styles every now and then.

“We try to keep up with trends and what’s in style, which is probably easier in a big city, but it’s hard in a small town,” Mark admitted.

Despite being in a small city, Mark believes the most important part of choosing your jewelry store is its experience and time put in.

“I keep reminding people that they should shop somewhere where you know the store’s been around for a while, and you know it’s going to be around if you have issues or problems,” he said.

Mark plans to pass down the business to son Aaron after retiring, continuing the family tradition.

Melby’s is at 1140 E. Clark Ave., suite 190. For store hours or more information, visit

Intern Andrea Kang wrote this week’s Biz Spotlight. Send items for consideration to the Sun via mail, e-mail, or fax.

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