and on this 40th anniversary of the death of Elvis, I had to tell my own tale of a decent and inspiring man who was not just his jeweler, but his dear friend. I do hope Mr. Hays reads the article and my comment there so he will know the impact he had on my son...
In 2005 I sold my Sebring, FL jewelry and pawn store and let the refrigerator sized TL-30 safe go with it. My son had wanted it for his planned move to near our vacation place in North Georgia to open his own store at age 21. So in early 2006 I found an awesome ISM TRTL vault, 7ft by 4ft by 3ft, for sale on eBay along with some miscellaneous bench tools. The safe did not attract many bids I am sure because people knew the difficulty and expense of transporting it.
Then I noticed the small wording saying the seller might deliver a short distance. It was in Memphis, we were an hour north of Atlanta. On a chance, I made contact and asked about delivery and they said yes...they would make the more than 400 mile delivery, included in the very reasonable price! I don't remember at what point I found out who the seller was, whether through research at the time of sale or when it was delivered; there was no mention on eBay that this was the store safe of the Jeweler to the King, I think due to Lowell's low-key approach and reluctance to try to capitalize on his friend's memory, although later he realized those stories needed to be told and starting publishing them online...and they are amazing. But who it was was Lowell Hays and his son who had decided to discontinue the historical jewelry business and concentrate on I think land development. Father and son both made the trip in a dually pickup truck and a goose-neck flatbed trailer...I think as a chance to be together on a road-trip adventure. I had rented a forklift capable of 8000 pounds and it struggled to lift that safe off, but the younger Hays adroitly stood it up, lifted it, and set it beside our building. Afterward they graciously chatted, took some pictures, and I asked for an Elvis story, but nothing bad. Lowell said he didn't have any bad stories about Elvis, that he was the kindest most decent man he ever knew. And then they loaded up and headed back the 400 miles to Memphis.
We had to remove the front door and plate glass to get that monster safe inside, and it took my son and I most of a day to inch it on pipes to the back corner of the store. The door was like a bank vault, heavy and slow to open, but when you locked it up and walked out the door at night you had no worries. A few years later son and his fiancée called it quits and he sold the business and moved back to Florida. It would have been a major expensive undertaking to take the safe back out, transport it to Fla, and since we didn't have a new store yet to put it in, we'd have had to store it and then pay again to move it into place when we did start a new business...so we left it.
We did a new jewelry store for him in our little central Fl town (and the gold boom had kicked in so I stayed on to help with that) from '08 to '12 and by then son had honed his skills, become proficient with his LaserStar, and was ready for the upscale custom, repair, and estate jewelry business in Palm Beach Gardens where for five years now his skill, personality, and a lifetime of experience since he was a toddler have made him and his business The Jewelry Doctor one of the most highly rated and reviewed shops in an area full of high-end chains. He's even had some celebrity clients including Susan Lucci whose mom's estate he purchased, Miss Florida Brie Gabrielle, and a ranking military attache to Ronald Reagan whose WH presentation jacket buttons he repaired with his laser.
It would be wonderful to have Mr. Hays vault in his store, on display as where some of the most iconic custom jewelry ever made had been secured, along with the original molds for some of them, and just as importantly the place where one of the most talented, famous, and gentle artists of the trade had kept his creations, but that was not to be.
Still, I am convinced that the contact and transaction with those gentlemen was an inspiration to my son, and that the traits and trust that Lowell Hays embodied in his career and in his dealings with us, have helped guide my son in how he runs his business and serves his clients, famous and not-so-famous alike. Thank you and God Bless you, Mr. Hays.
And God Bless you too, Elvis Presley...you were an imperfect man like all of us, but God knows a good soul and no doubt yours is residing with Him now, along with your beloved Mama, and with all the fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches you want, weight be damned!