By the time Yves Mozelsio figured out why his business was struggling, it was almost too late.
In retrospect, the owner of Yves’ Jewelry and Judaica in Berkeley says, “The main problem was signage. The mistake was in front of my face.”
What wasn’t in front of other people’s faces, however, was the fact that his store even existed, and that was the biggest problem — so much so that when friends began asking if it might be time to close up shop, Mozelsio realized it was indeed time to let go of all the sweat equity and energy he had invested, as well as the dream that the business would carry him through to retirement.
He posted messages about the store’s closing on Facebook and Berkeleyside, a local Berkeley website, and hung a 10-by-5-foot vinyl banner across the facade of the store, located near the shuttered Oaks Theatre on Solano Avenue: “GOING OUT OF BUSINESS. EVERYTHING MUST GO.”
“It was one of the hardest things I ever had to go through,” he recalls of that moment from six months ago.
Then something miraculous happened.
“That week, there were people in the shop nonstop,” Mozelsio, 55, says of the response. “People were saying they were sorry I was closing; others said they didn’t even know I was there. Even people who lived [near] the shop didn’t know I was there!”
The flock of customers into the 700-square-foot space also encouraged the business owner not to give up.
“Some who came in didn’t even want the discount,” he jokes. “It was emotional because I didn’t want to leave. I stayed open. I had nothing to lose.”
The going-out-of-business sign has now been replaced with new signage that clearly announces the presence of Yves’ Jewelry and Judaica in the neighborhood.
“It seems like a common-sense thing to do,” he says of installing the new sign, “but I just didn’t do it. People are no longer guessing what type of shop this is.”
More comfortable behind a camera than behind a ledger sheet, Mozelsio is a photographer who opened the shop nearly two years ago. His original vision was to have a photo gallery while also selling Israeli and locally handcrafted jewelry by artists such as Amy Faust and Davi Grossman, who also built Mozelsio’s website that was recently unveiled.
When he first opened, he hosted artist receptions and even a fundraiser for Bernie Sanders. He believed the bright ceiling, Queen Anne jewelry cases and wide windows that allowed passers-by a peek inside would start a word-of-mouth buzz.
But it didn’t.
“I assumed people would see inside, but it wasn’t enough,” he says, recognizing his lack of business acumen. “I was in denial.”
A self-described people person, the native of Belgium has always been involved in the Jewish community. When he lived in Chicago, he created what eventually became a traveling exhibit of photographs and stories about Orthodox Jews in their work environments. The exhibit, designed to break down stereotypes, appeared at the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership as well as the Harold Washington Library, both in Chi-Town. Mozelsio gifted the exhibit to the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life in Berkeley; however, copies of the photographs hang in his shop.
“It was the most meaningful thing I’ve ever done,” he says.
These days, Mozelsio describes the shop as having “a different energy.” He looks forward to displaying a new shipment of Judaica that will join the current inventory of Shabbat candlesticks, mezuzahs, menorahs, wall hangings and Kiddush cups.
He admits that he has learned a lot about running a brick-and-mortar store, and also acknowledges the competition he faces online. Still, Mozelsio holds true to his original vision of offering his customers artisan jewelry that can’t be found through a few strokes on a keyboard. He is proud that nearly all of his jewelry is handcrafted, some from people in the area since he enjoys supporting local artists.
“I hope people want to purchase things,” he says of this second chance at success, “but just having people in the shop is good.”