Murat Ozuzun is in the business of lost and found. As Skagway’s local jeweler, he’s in the business of helping people find unique jewelry, and restore lost beauty to treasured pieces.
Visitors come to his shop, The Local Jeweler, for a quick repair or to purchase his handcrafted pieces. Nestled in a tiny 280 square foot store, with one side filled with his workshop, Ozuzun prides himself as being a local jeweler in a store with a big heart. “I’m a small-time fish in a jar compared with some of the big dog jewelers out there.”
He’s OK with that. Ozuzun and his wife, Jennifer, personally greet cruise ship passengers and other travelers, where, in addition to jewelry, Ozuzun might chat with visitors about professional soccer, his beloved Skagway, and his faith.
After living in Skagway since 2002, Ozuzun says he wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. “It’s like living in a bubble and very isolated, but without the anxiety of the rat race,” he says. “Skagway is my home, and when people ask me where I’m from, Skagway comes out of my mouth so quickly.”
The Local Jeweler specializes in exotic silver pieces, such as those with native Alaskan art patterns and a line of silver that has stones in it — “Ninety five percent of the time these pieces become people’s signature pieces. It becomes very special to them,” Ozuzun says — and just plain silver pieces as well as gold pieces.”
Ozuzon also designs and creates his own pieces, with a jewelry line sought after by many. His favorite medium is platinum, and he recently finished a cross made of the material, although demand isn’t high in Skagway.
Sales people from many Skagway shops visit Ozuzon to size jewelry daily, and he’s hard at work behind the scenes to support fellow businesses to make sure their customers have the perfect fit. Ozuzun said jewelry repair in Skagway is often done under difficult circumstances because of the short time-frames he has to make a repair. Most cruise ships don’t stay long in Skagway, so he is often hurried to get jewelry repair completed before his clients’ ships depart.
For Ozuzun, that’s not a problem.
“I’m the same no matter what,” he said. “Even in soccer I performed best under pressure.”
It won’t take long in a conversation with Ozuzun before you are talking soccer. Ozuzun, a native of Istanbul, Turkey, is a former amateur Turkish soccer player who had dreams of becoming a professional until health issues forced him to end that dream.
His father wasn’t convinced that soccer was a safe bet as a professional, however, and he took Murat to the old bazaar in Istanbul, where he later learned his trade in jewelry. He learned how to size jewelry around age 15 or 16. “Friends started sending me things to repair but I wouldn’t touch them. But when I came to Skagway there was a demand, so I had to adapt to being that kind of a jeweler.”
As he continued his training, he decided he wanted to be a metal worker.
“That’s the definition of a jeweler,” he said. “You can’t find anybody who knows how to make jewelry right out of the metal instead of from a cast. Most people who do it are in their fifties and sixties. In 20 years that side of jewelry will be done.”
Still, if you want to talk professional soccer, Ozuzun is more than happy to talk about it. He also enjoys talking with customers about faith. Ozuzun, whose Christian religious faith is deep, said he has even had testimony in his own store. He remembers one particularly special client whose faith was also strong.
“It was an extremely slow day, and a lady walked in with a name tag on, but I don’t remember her name,” he said. “She came in and bought one of my pieces, a ring, and she stayed after we closed up. She said, ‘I’m being treated for cancer.’ So I offered to pray with her so we prayed and then she was gone.”
“Then last summer I came to work and got my coffee, I’m a huge coffee drinker, and I was doing my morning routine when an elderly couple came in and showed me a picture of the ring the woman had bought. They said, ‘We came to Skagway especially to see you.’ I said, ‘Why?’ and they said you prayed for this woman, and we just wanted to come to tell you she beat the cancer. I still have tears in my eyes. It was so nice to see God’s work in my place.”
That’s the sort of approach Ozuzun takes when he’s doing business with his clients. He loves what he does, but he especially loves meeting people, chatting with them and helping them purchase jewelry that is not only a memory of Skagway, but of their experience at The Local Jeweler.
“I’m super excited to have my pieces out there,” he said. “It’s a blessing to make pieces that are seen all around town, personal jewelry pieces. It makes people super happy. My payoff is not in money. It’s in being appreciated for what I do. You can’t buy that with money.”