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Lahaina jeweler returning home after 40 years

By Staff | Nov 13, 2014

LAHAINA – From 505 Front Street to 1000 Limahana Place, Bobby Vierra of Journeyman Jewelers has been a familiar player in the Lahaina goldsmith scene for over 40 years. This week, he’s moving back home to Oahu, “lock, stock and barrel.”

“I have decided to go back to Honolulu. My family has been bugging me for quite some time to move back. They’re tired of seeing me only once a year on New Year’s. I just decided it is time for me to move,” he told the Lahaina News.

The self-proclaimed workaholic, however, is not retiring.

“My sister has three houses; I’m going to have one house for a workshop,” he said.

Vierra was born in Honolulu in 1950. He has six sisters and one brother.

“I went to Kailua Elementary, Intermediate and High School; I graduated in 1968,” he said.

His career in the jewelry industry was launched at the Ala Moana Center at Security Diamond and Conrad Jewelers.

“My mother got me the job in their workshop. The entry position is polisher. I worked there two-and-a-half years. It got to a point where I didn’t want to be a polisher anymore, because I wanted to sit on the bench, ” he explained.

With experience under his hat, Vierra moved to Maui in 1976.

“I flew with Royal Hawaiian and landed in Kaanapali at the ‘old airport.’ I got a job with John P. Hurley & Son. He had two stores in Lahaina. He had a workshop upstairs at 505 (Front Street). I was hired to run the workshop; it was me and his son,” the artisan recalled.

“It had me, him and about ten girls; we did all the cleaning and polishing. We did our own castings. I did all the stone settings. That went on for about a year-and-a-half. He got embezzled by his accountant for about a million bucks, so he went out of business,” Vierra recounted.

He was headed back home, he said, “but a lot of people asked me to stick around, because they needed somebody of my skills to work for them at the stores.

“I did a lot of sizings and alterations. Somebody comes in and buys a $5,000 ring; they don’t want to wait two weeks for the ring. It’s an impulse buy. If you tell them, ‘Go have a couple of drinks. I’ll have the ring back in a half an hour’ That’s how I connect. For my $20 worth, I sell them a $5,000 ring. I make good customers and on and on and on and on and on, ” he continued.

“That’s how that all started for me,” Vierra explained.

Jayne Richard Armijo will miss Bobby.

“I met Bobby in the early ’80s when I worked at Waterfront Gallery and needed something sized; (and) within a couple of hours, he did it! (I) have never stopped using his service there will never be another jeweler like him,” Armijo commented.

Like many establishments in the Lahaina retail world, Vierra has played “musical stores” in various locations, depending on economic conditions.

He opened his first store, Journeyman Jewelers, in 1978 in the Lahaina Industrial Center at Wili Ko Place.

For three or four years, he worked with Albert Yoshimura at Yoshimura’s Jewelers on Front Street

“I did repairs, fittings and sizing. I had lots of repeat business.

I wasn’t in manufacturing, when you would make a line of stuff. I would make things custom,” he said.

Vierra met Dan Reardon (West Maui Gold and Loan) after his stint at Yoshimura’s.

Their first location was at the old Travelodge, now Anchor Square.

“We were there a couple a years,” Bobby continued, “outgrew it. It was just like a big closet. So then we went up to where we are now,” West Maui Gold & Loan at 1000 Lima Hana Place.

And he’s been there since 1992.

There is another side to the 64-year-old: Bobby the activist.

Su Campos remembers this Bobby best.

Campos and Vierra were part of a small group protesting the development of an industrial center across the street from their neighborhood.

Through NAG, Napili Action Group, Campos said, her relationship with Vierra developed “into a lifelong friendship.”

“I can always count on Bobby to have a smile on his face every time I see him. He has made my life richer by being my friend. I will miss him dearly West Maui will be losing its first true goldsmith, an awesome person and a valued friend,” Campos added.

Bobby is pleased to be returning home.

“I’ve seen a lot of changes in Lahaina. But good changes,” Vierra said.

“When I moved here, Kimo’s wasn’t there. It was a slab with a gas pump on it,” the craftsman observed.

“Maui has been really, really good to me; the people, everything. There were ups and downs, but it was the best move I ever made in my life to come to West Maui, Lahaina,” he said with love in his voice.

“But,” he said, “I won’t miss the grind.”