By Assunta Ng
Northwest Asian Weekly
In an approximately 900-square-foot room, lit by sparkling diamonds and shining gold, Francis and Sirdana Ma can recall hundreds of moving love stories. They can remember the parents, daughters, and sons; aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews; grandparents and grandchildren that they’ve helped to celebrate a special occasion. But on April 20, the special occasions will end as the Mas, owners of Le-Hama Jewelry, officially retire after 33 years in the business.
The news may sadden some community members, as many immigrants have depended on Le-Hama for its services, including repair and custom jewelry design. As the first Chinese-owned jewelry store in the International District, it has been a one-stop shop for those who have language and cultural barriers.
Before the founding of Le-Hama, many Chinese immigrants had to travel to San Francisco or Vancouver, B.C. to shop for their wedding jewelry, rings, earrings, dragon-pheonix bracelets, and jade. That all changed when the couple, born in Hong Kong, set up shop.
“Our kids have their own dreams,” said Francis Ma. “They are not interested in the business. Besides, who will buy a jewelry store?”
He continued, “You have to know the jewelry business. That knowledge takes years of experience.”
When they first opened the store, the Mas worked seven days a week. As they established themselves, they scaled back to six days a week, and most recently, five days a week. When they went on vacation, they simply closed the store for days to even weeks. The Mas have no employees. The only solution to free them from their work and to find their own passions was to close the business.
“We don’t have our own time when running the business,” Francis said. “I love gardening and will spend more time on that.”
Sidana said she wanted to focus on studying meditation.
If someone wants to buy his tools and equipment, he is open. If someone just wants to buy his inventory, he is also open. Otherwise, he is going to sell them in New York. Currently, they are offering a sale of their inventory up to 40 percent off.
The Mas have nothing but good things to say about the store’s corner location located in the Bush Hotel, visible from both Jackson Street and Maynard Avenue South.
It has the brightest natural light, Francis said, which illuminates all their jewelry.
They are appreciative of their landlord, the SCIDpda, for their support over the years.
Sidana said she will miss the customers and families that they have served from when they were just young couples. Those couples have become parents and now grandparents. Immigrants may now have to go to a Vietnamese jewelry store to find their jade and gold. The void left by Le-Hama may never be filled. (end)
Assunta Ng can be reached at email@example.com.