Jeweler to close its doors after 36 years
Well-known San Luis Obispo jewelry retailer is closing up shop
–Serengeti West Jewelers announced this week that owner, Kathleen Dente, will be retiring after the doors close at the end of July.
“I’ve been questioning for a couple of years when the time would be right to retire and it seems like the perfect time is now,” Dente says. “I’m ready to go have some fun and enjoy life, explore new opportunities and travel. When people think of Serengeti West, I hope we’re remembered as honest, hard-working, fun-loving people who made a lot of other people very happy over the years.”
The business will be having a store-wide liquidation sale beginning Saturday, June 5 with savings from 40-percent to 70-percent off everything, excluding loose diamonds.
Dente’s late husband Vincent, along with his brothers Gene and Steven, founded Serengeti Company in 1978. They traveled back and forth from East Africa buying tanzanite, ruby, sapphire, and tsavorite rough for sale to gem dealers and jewelry manufacturers.
When Kathleen met Vincent, she says she quickly realized that the exciting business of jewelry and design would become a huge part of her life. Consequently she left her job as a hospital controller in 1984, when she married Vincent and joined the business.
After the couple moved to San Luis Obispo in 1985, they began a wholesale gem business in a small one-room office called Rock Soup Trading Company. When they moved to the old Takkens building on Marsh Street, recognizable by the stagecoach mural on the building’s side, they changed the name to Serengeti West in honor of the African gemstone mines that the Dente brothers visited together.
In April of 1993, Vincent and Kathleen joined the world of retail and moved to their current location on the corner of Morro and Monterey. The new store was a success and they were voted Best Jewelry Store for several years in the New Times San Luis Obispo “Best of SLO County” readers poll.
“Vince loved promoting the store by throwing extravagant events on a shoestring budget,” Dente recalled. “One year he talked AGTA (American Gem Trade Association) into loaning him the prestigious Spectrum Award jewelry design winner’s pieces. He rented an empty bank building for the black-tie event, fashioned lucite boxes to display the gorgeous award winning pieces of jewelry at the bank teller stations, and arranged to have a friend with a limo business pick up many of our customers. It was a fabulous night. Vince’s passion for the business was contagious.”
Kathleen took over sole control of Serengeti West after the tragic passing of her husband in 1996. “At the time of Vince’s untimely passing I was working part time as a speech therapist and I wasn’t the natural salesperson he was. I was very lucky to find Janett Lightfoot Lumpkin who, with her gemology degree from the Gemological Institute of America, was a perfect fit. Janett has been an integral part of the store for many years and recently moved to Arizona.” Janett will be back for the retirement sale to help their customers one last time.
The business was also fortunate to employ two gifted long-term jewelry designers, Kurt Schiller and Craig A. Boisvert. After 28 years, Kurt is still Serengeti West’s jeweler. “I was blessed to have such a dream team for years’,’ Dente said. There is a quote hanging in her office that she ascribes to by the comedian, Tina Fey, “In most cases being a good boss means hiring talented people and then getting out of their way!”
In the age of big-box retailers, Dente credits her loyal customer base to always treating people well and providing a personal touch. Vincent is quoted as saying, “Allow yourself to be inspired. Allow yourself to succeed. Dare to excel.”
According to Dente, “We used this as our store motto and I believe we did it well. It’s been a wonderful journey and I am so grateful to our community and to my employees. I imagine Vince would be pleased.”
Serengeti West Jewelers offers an exquisite selection of rings, diamonds, bracelets, necklaces, and earrings. To thank their loyal customers for their trust and support over the last 36 years, they are having a liquidation sale beginning Saturday, June 5 through July 31, 2021 with savings from 40-percent to 70-percent off. For more information, call (805) 546-8706 or visit serengetiwest.com.