A Fresh Start for Gilmore Jewelers after Ocean Beach Icon Moves to Liberty Station

by on February 4, 2016 · 11 comments

in Culture, Economy, History, Life Events, Ocean Beach

Gary Gilmore move mw 02

Gary Gilmore in front of his new place in Liberty Station. Most photos by Matthew Wood.

By Matthew Wood

Fear not, fans of Gilmore Jewelers. The iconic shop is still in business. It’s just a bit tougher to find, and that’s just the way Gary Gilmore likes it.

He closed up the longtime shop on Newport Avenue at the end of the year, moving to cozier digs in Liberty Station and taking customers on an appointment-only basis.

“It hasn’t been born yet. It’s still giving birth,” he said of the new place. “It’s going to be like having someone in my home. I’m really excited for this setup.”

Gilmore recently gave me a tour of the new shop, which really does resemble a home. He has a waiting room in the front to show off some of his wares, leading customers to an adjacent sales room – both of which feel more like living rooms or bedrooms. Through a kitchen and hallway is his workroom and computer area for bookkeeping.

Gilmore said he really wants to emphasize online sales with the help of his wife and two daughters.

“I’m 65. I want to do this a long time,” he said. “I was just getting tired of retail. The online business is where I want to go. I really want to get my daughters more involved. The social media generation.”

A familiar face in the neighborhood will take the place of his old store. Chapter One Tattoo moves just a few doors east from its current location. Owner Cash Scott signed a five-year lease with Gilmore in what both call a perfect situation.  “He’s been a great neighbor,” said Scott, who bought his wife’s engagement ring from Gilmore.

“It’s funny because we touch base with him all the time. I went by and saw a moving sale sign on the window. It caught me off guard. I didn’t think they were going anywhere.”

Gilmore said he hired a firm to help find a tenant, which in the end turned out to be a big waste of time.

“I paid this guy a whole lot of money to try to find the best tenant,” he recalls. “Cash came in and we did a deal with a handshake. That’s just how you want to do it.”

OB Newport 7-16-13 GilmoreGilmore had been approached by a number of people about the space, including wine bars and beer tasting rooms.

“It came down to a choice between alcohol and art. Tattoos are really a signature art form, especially the way Cash does them.”

Scott plans for the new place to open March 1, in what he calls a seamless transition.

“We’re gonna close up one night and open up in the new location the next morning.”

He said OB resident Loida Palmer is opening a gift shop in the old Chapter One location the following month.

“It all worked out really well,” he said. “Right when we talked to Gary, they gave us the go-ahead. The next day, they already had someone in our building.”

He doesn’t anticipate having to make major changes to the store, Scott said.

“Just kinda making it our own,” he said. “The place has a great layout already. The walls that are already built are perfect for our use. We love OB so much and especially the block we’re on. We’ve wanted to expand for a while, but we really weren’t ready to leave.”

For Gilmore, leaving OB is a bit bittersweet.

Gary Gilmore n Beth

Gary and Beth in front of the old shop on Newport Ave. Photo by Frank Gormlie.

He fondly remembers hitchhiking across the country from Michigan, through Canada, and ended up in our beloved beach community back in the 1970s. After plying his trade as a leather worker and living on a Voltaire Street rooftop, Gilmore shifted to jewelry. He was slowly able to make a name for himself and take over his own shop on Newport. (See Frank Gormlie’s interview with Gary from 2010.)

He said he’ll take every opportunity to come back to the ‘hood.

“What an amazing place to live. It’s the best place on the face of the Earth. I’ve lived in a number of places in my life, but none like this.”

Gilmore still believes in the core tenets of Ocean Beach after all these years.

“A mom-and-pop shop can succeed,” he said. “Here it’s much more than income. You can really connect with the community. I see more diversity than I ever did before.”

Gilmore also said he never felt unsafe in the area. In his decades on Newport, he only had one attempted break-in, which ended quite comically.

“I got a call from the police, and they said, ‘You better come down and see this,’” he said. “When I got there, all you could see was two feet dangling down from the ceiling.”

A would-be robber was stuck, unable to escape from the paneling.

“I’m not sure how he thought he was going to get out of there.”

Gilmore said that, before he knew it, a number of cop cars were on the scene to check it out, along with every TV station in town.

“That Saturday, I did business like the day before Christmas. It was incredible,” he said with a laugh.

He also made his presence known one last time before leaving the neighborhood. As movers were packing up the shop, all of a sudden he heard a deafening crash. His six-foot safe toppled over.

“It’s really, really heavy,” he said. “You could hear it all the way down the block.”

Fortunately, after a whole lot of maneuvering, they were able to get the thing upright and out of the store. It now resides at the Liberty Station location, though I’m sworn to secrecy about its exact whereabouts.

Gary Gilmore move mw 03So, as Gilmore starts fresh with a new location in a new neighborhood with a new storefront – he kept the “G” from the old building, but not a whole lot else – he’s able to reflect on what exactly he wants to do with his time.

He said working retail never really let him fully explore his craft – his art, if you will. I asked him if he thought of himself as an artist.

“My first thought of an artist is a purple beret and a Salvador Dali mustache,” he said. “But at the risk of sounding pompous, yeah. I’m an artist. It’s gotta come from in here (pointing to his heart). It’s in you from the beginning.”

He’s also excited about getting more family time. His wants his 40-year wife Beth and daughters Alex and Vanessa – both of whom are expecting children in the next few months – to play a prominent role in the business.

“They really set most of the prices,” he said. “I’m too nice. I always want to make my work cheaper.”

Gilmore said the setup works well, since he always has a soft spot for his clients.

“It’s more than just finished pieces,” he said. “It’s who it’s going to go to and how it makes them feel. Their fulfillment is your fulfillment. That’s better than money.”

Gary Gilmore move mw 01

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Gormlie February 4, 2016 at 11:09 am

Nice job, Matt.


Gary Gilmore February 4, 2016 at 4:59 pm

I’ll second that. Thank you.


Jon February 4, 2016 at 12:07 pm

The Gilmore family, just like their jewelry, are OB treasures! Thanks for all you continue to add to the community. Looking forward to seeing your new digs Gary!

And although I like to imbibe, I’m glad we’re not adding yet another bar/tasting room.



Gary Gilmore February 4, 2016 at 5:01 pm

Thanks for the kind words Jon. You and Tanya will always be welcome guests.


Christo February 4, 2016 at 1:20 pm

I will miss the Gilmores presence on Newport.


OB Dude February 4, 2016 at 9:55 pm

Good luck to Gilmore!

Please NO MORE Breweries on Newport


rick callejon February 5, 2016 at 8:35 am

The number of open breweries on Newport is zero.


Frank Gormlie February 5, 2016 at 10:35 am

There is a winery.


OB Dude February 8, 2016 at 6:01 pm

ok ….beer joints and/or “tasting rooms”.

Thanks for the correction….


Frank Gormlie February 8, 2016 at 7:59 pm

The coming OB Brewery will actually brew on site, therefore it will be a brewery.


Geoff Page February 8, 2016 at 5:21 pm

No offense to Mr. Gilmore, but I just wish he hadn’t decided to relocate to Liberty Station. You can’t get farther away from OB spiritually than that place. A good market for a jewelry man for sure, but it has no soul at all, none.


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