What's inside Monarch Jewelers' new store at 838 Farmington Ave.?
Well, jewelry, you might guess. But that's only half the story.
Lee and Angela DeFelippi have been in business in Farmington for 32 years, all the time growing. The couple started out with a 650 square-foot studio in Round Hill Square, then moved to a larger space across the driveway, where they stayed until 1994.
"But we wanted to get up here. This is Farmington," Angela said of what she calls the Epicure plaza.
"I love the people. They come in and they're loyal, that's what got me. We still have our first customer and now we serve their families - children and grandchildren - it's an honor," Angela said.
And the DeFelippis have been very happy there, serving the people of Farmington until they again needed more room to expand their gift section.
So when Arrow Drug left the plaza, they took over the 4,000 square-foot space it left behind next to Starbucks.
Having double the space allowed them to expand exponentially. Today, almost half the store is filled with gifts, from a men's section to a baby section, with gilded glassware, hammered metal housewares (beautiful but dishwasher safe), jewelry boxes, wine accessories, purses, ties and dozens of other options. They added Caro 74 diamonds (74 facets instead of 58 for more bridal bling), Pandora and Alex & Ani.
"We created a beautiful store where people don't have to leave their town to find a gift for someone - expensive or inexpensive," she said.
After three decades, the couple has deep roots in town. They've sponsored dozens of local charity organizations, including the schools, the Farmington Police Department, Exchange Club, Rotary, cancer and heart associations - gladly.
"People come in and I say, 'of course I can do it.'"
When the Red Cross held an event the night of Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding, they donated a sapphire and diamond ring.
"I had to - it was tradition!" Angela said.
And though they're glad to see business expanding from people in West Hartford and surrounding towns, they're devoted to Farmington and to serving their neighbors.
"I love the people here. They appreciate all that we do and that's what keeps us going," she said.
While she knows a lot of people shop through the Internet these days, with jewelry especially, Angela said it's important to develop face-to-face relationships.
"We get to know husbands and wives and what they like. A husband will come in and pick something out for his wife and I'll say 'are you sure about that?' We know what she'll like," she said.
And while Angela said she learned a long time ago that men often are intimidated by jewelry stores, "we make them feel comfortable in here."
The feisty storeowner wants everyone else to feel comfortable, too. She has turned away jewelry lines that want to dictate prices that are too high. Instead she continuously attends shows to find items she thinks customers will like and to keep up with trends.
Walk around the showroom and she can tell you a story behind every line she carries.
"Mary Jurek was a metalurgist who worked for a long time for Tiffany's and went out on her own... Apple Park has organic, hypoallergenic material baby toys. They're green and so soft and grandmas love to buy them for babies...These bracelets by David Wysor, the clasp opens by pushing this so they're great for people who have trouble or live alone..."
Stop in any time and she'll give you the tour, too.
Monarch Jewelers is open Monday to Wednesday 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Thursday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visit them in person or like them on Facebook.