Call it serendipity. Sometimes things find you when you don’t even realize you are looking. That’s how Kathaleen Montero discovered 125 S. Central Ave., where she has now opened KT Jewelry.
“I wasn’t looking for a place,” she said. “This place found me.”
As Montero explained, it was either the second or third week in December. She and her husband decided to travel from their home in Lakeland, along with their dog, and stroll the streets of downtown Bartow.
“As we were walking to our car, I said let’s take a look,” said Montero.
She was somewhat disappointed at what she found. Downtown Bartow had “kind of dried out,” as she put it. After strolling Main Street, she suggested to her husband they walk down South Central Avenue. She said she seemed to recall there had been some businesses located on the corner of South Central Avenue and Summerlin Street.
Yet when the couple strolled the street they learned those businesses, which had been part of an incubator program, were once again vacant, with the exception of Palmer Insurance. While next door to the Stuart Building the ice cream parlor and florist shop were open, the owners or operators of both were in the process of closing for good. The site of the florist shop excited her.
“I just fell in love with this,” she said. It was perfect, she thought, to relocate her jewelry business. At the time she shared space with a salon on South Florida Avenue in Lakeland in a business complex located directly behind where a Manny’s Chophouse recently opened.
Not long after, Montero began moving her merchandise to her new-found location, and officially opened her door for business a week ago, which was the fourth week in January.
She laughed when she recounted how she got into the costume jewelry — also known as fashion jewelry, but not to be confused with fine jewelry — market.
“It was a fluke,” she said. Montero had a friend who sells Mary Kay makeup at a high-rise senior residence in Lakeland. Her friend, she said, is very shy, so she asked Montero to accompany her. “I’m known as ‘Chatty Kathy’ because I just love to talk.”
Whenever she accompanied her friend, she wore her jewelry, which the women in the residence liked.
“They would ask, where’s the jewelry,” she said. As a result, Montero asked whether the women would buy the jewelry if she started bringing it. The residents said they would. “It just snowballed. I was shocked how quickly I got clients.”
Challenges and merchandise
That was five years ago. Now she is here in Bartow and she said she couldn’t be more pleased. One aspect she likes is how the downtown businesses pull together, doing what they can to support one another.
The only drawback she said she is aware of is the lack of knowledge by people who don’t realize there are shops on South Central Avenue. She said she hoped the city would do more to point people toward her direction and that of the ice cream parlor.
As for KT Jewelry itself, there are hundreds of items from which to select, from jewelry — such as necklaces, rings, bracelets — to purses, scarves, earrings and make-up (Mary Kay, which she has in stock for her friend). That’s just what’s on display, she said. All told, Montero estimated she has more than 1,000 items in stock. Her most expensive jewelry is no more than $18.
While the overwhelming majority is geared toward women, naturally, she does carry a limited amount of jewelry for men, watches and rings. Plus she makes every effort to get special items.
“Some of the locals put a little ‘thing’ in my ear to carry owls,” said Montero. She is also adding aviary jewelry, specifically yellow jackets, as that is the Bartow High School emblem. The latter is more difficult to secure she said, in part because a lot of it goes to Georgia Tech University, whose mascot is also the yellow jacket.
Montero also seeks out that which is in limited supply.
“I pride myself on one-of-a-kind stuff,” she said, “because no lady wants to ‘pass herself.’” By that, she meant seeing someone wear the very same piece of jewelry.
Want to go?
KT Jewelry, 125 S. Central Ave., is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Monday-Friday, and 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Saturday. Call 863-660-9138.