Written by Victoria Bardega
Photography by Dan Austin

Local small business, Gaines Jewelers, is redefining the art of gift-giving and hosting for shoppers. Learn more about how this historic shop continues to create whimsical experiences for customers who are looking to give a “goes-the-extra-mile” kind of gift or host a memorable celebration.

One gift can create a special moment, a meaningful connection, and a favorite memory all at once. It turns the ordinary into treasure. While for some, it can feel challenging to figure out exactly what to buy, it truly is an art for those who revel in the details of gift-giving.

In a time of year where the holidays bring you close together with the ones you love most, it’s also a time of year to express your love, appreciation, and support by finding that special present. Local business owner, Gina Saunders, knows the importance of this all too well.

One of Lakeland’s favorite charming storefronts, Gaines Jewelers, in Downtown Lakeland, shows you first-handedly the magic of adding your personal touch.

So what is it that makes a gift reach the heart of someone’s perfection? “Something that can stand the test of time…something you can enjoy now and for years to come,” reflects Saunders.

Saunders became a regular customer of the iconic Gaines Jewelers years before she would eventually take on its ownership from the Gaines family.

A brave cancer survivor, she stepped into the brick-and-mortar with a vision to not only continue its legacy but also to help customers intentionally celebrate each day.

When it comes to carrying out this mission, Saunders agrees she and her team “love helping people celebrate the special occasions in their lives––the big moments and the small moments.”

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Fine china has evolved from traditional matching sets to whimsical combinations, which reflect personal taste and style. At Gaines Jewelers you can mix and match to create your perfect dinnerware set.

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Since 1935, Gaines Jewelers has provided handcrafted fine jewelry, fashion jewelry––everything from engagement rings to bracelets in 14K gold-filled materials. But today, their storefront continues its tradition of offering so much more than elegant pieces of bijouterie.

“We sell everything from cocktail napkins to baccarat luxury crystals,” shares Saunders. As you walk through the charm of Gaines Jewelers, you’re instantly inspired by the whimsical colors and extensive variety they offer.

“Their products not only give you the chance to find one-of-a-kind gifts and momentos. They also awaken the hostess in you.”

Their products not only give you the chance to find one-of-a-kind gifts and mementos. They also awaken the hostess in you.

“From detailed fine china to pewter vessels and exquisite home decor, you easily take away pieces that can be passed on from generation to generation.”

Every holiday hostess revels in the details when it comes to lifestyle wares. From detailed fine china to pewter vessels and exquisite home decor, you easily take away pieces that can be passed on from generation to generation.

Now as a four-year business owner, Saunders notes the importance of building a connection generationally within her own family by featuring items that truly resonate and pique the interest of her daughters.

She recalls, “When I first bought this store, it was already so wonderful. But I wanted to be able to have items my daughters would be able to buy, too, as special gifts for their friends.”

Who can forget the infamous Volcano Collection of candles from Anthropologie? Gaines Jewelers carries this same brand and other favorite brands––even from local makers––such as Nacre Watches.

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Everyone loves a luxe fragrance; it sets the tone for your space. Whether you are hosting or looking for the perfect hostess gift, Gaines has a variety of brands and styles to choose from.

Left to right; Antica Farmacista – Fig Leaf Diffuser, VIETRI – Hibiscus Glass Amber Bud Vase, NESt – Festive Fragrance Diffuser Set,  Antica Farmacista –  Fig Leaf Candle, Baccarat – Butterfly 20K Gold Crystal Figurine

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“There’s something for everyone in our store. We’ve brought in things of every price point and every variety,” remarks Saunders. And it shows, in both the storefront and online shopping experience. While every day is a day worth celebrating at this family-owned business, not every day has been easy as a small business.

During the uncertain times in 2020, Saunders worked hard to make sure she maintained reliable employment for her close-knit staff, despite the challenges that the pandemic ensued. In an effort to pivot, they placed focus on their online platform. Though times became very testing for many, Saunders admits “gift-giving never stopped.”

The support of local and returning customers continues to be unwavering. And undoubtedly, the quality of curated gifts shows thoughtfulness in their selection. But something that will always set this historic shop apart from the rest is its people-focused customer experience.

“That drives who we are at the core of our business… Our customer service goes above and beyond to truly know our customers,” explains Saunders.

One of the noteworthy ways Gaines Jewelers goes the extra mile is by creating a one-stop-shop experience for their customers by offering gift wrapping.

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Beatriz Ball – Organic Pearl Orlando Ice Bucket and Pearl Wine Coaster

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With an artful eye for beauty and handcrafted bows, a devoted employee, Rosa Lee McCloud, has worked at the store since she was twenty-three years of age––starting over sixty years ago. She wraps every gift with the store’s signature style creating an experience that goes the extra mile for every customer.

“We always go the extra mile to help our customers get the perfect gift. Our philosophy is helping our customers make gift-giving beautiful and easy,” Saunders mentions with joy.

This genuine love and passion for helping others to find that perfect gift come from a far deeper place than just a desire to serve others well. It’s a piece of Saunders’s story that truly elevates the store’s attention to detail.

Gina Saunders,
Owner of Gaines Jewelers

Small businesses are what make our city feel like home, wouldn’t you agree? It’s these places where you look forward to returning to support because they offer you far more than any retail-chain brand ever could.

“My dad owned a pharmacy when I was growing up––one that had gifts and everyday essentials. Since we had a family-owned business, we had this philosophy in our family that we always had to buy it in town first,” remembers Saunders of her inspiring upbringing. 

In a time when you can shop online at the click of a button, small businesses––like Gaines Jewelers––offer a unique shopping experience that allows you to dream big and find items that will actually last in your home for years to come.

It’s a recurring theme when you talk with the ladies at Gaines Jewelers: timeless traditions.

When you are heading to your next holiday soirée or family gathering, find something that stands the test of time. For some, it’s gold. For others, it’s porcelain. For you, it may be familiarity or nostalgia. Whatever things evoke thoughtfulness, let that guide your process as you find a new treasure to gift someone with.

Gaines Jewelers 112 S Tennessee Ave, Lakeland, FL 33801

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Left to Right; Simon Pearce – Alpine Single Whiskey Glass with Soapstone Base, Waterford – Mixology Cocktail Shaker, Juliska – Amalia Champagne Coupe Set/2, Capri Blue – Rain Faceted Jar Candle

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Tomorrow isn’t promised, and as the world has proven, especially over the last couple of years, nothing is for certain.

“One of the things [I felt] after [recovering from] cancer was that I just felt like I wanted to celebrate every day. I’m grateful for the days that the Lord has given me, and I want to help remind someone every day that life is worth celebrating,” says Saunders, in retrospect.

And indeed, it is. Every day, every moment, every occasion is worth remembering and toasting to.

As you create a list of people to shop for, think outside the box. Recall moments throughout this past year where perhaps ideas and hints were dropped.

Or, if you’re shopping for someone new, think about the legacy of the item. As someone who has worked in the industry providing quality gifts for customers, Saunders’s advice is to go for “something practical!” It’s always a good place to start, and usually, you’ll find these are the gifts that make it for the long haul in someone’s home sweet home.