VSP Jewelry to close storefront business after 31 years in LFP

Monday, July 6, 2020

VSP Jewelry Design Gallery is located on the Town Centers’ lower level near the King County Library. Don’t miss their customer clearance appreciation sale taking place now!

Story and photos by Donna Hawkey

VSP Jewelry Design Gallery is one of the longest standing small businesses in Lake Forest Parks’ Town Center since its major remodel in 1989. After recently being forced to close for almost three months due to COVID-19, owners YeeMan and Paul Lee have decided it’s time to move on and will close their traditional brick and mortar storefront business.

With no rent relief, they plan to close their store in 30 to 60 days. YeeMan and Paul begin their customer gratitude and clearance sale starting Monday, July 6th. They do promise a return to the community in the future to continue their repair and jewelry design services.

Lovely display of Amber. YeeMan or Paul will happily give you a brief education about Amber and its special characteristics.

They first started their small business in the Kirkland Totem Lake area in 1986. They discovered the recently remodeled Lake Forest Park Town Center during their daily commute and decided to plant themselves there in 1989. Their store initially was on the upper level of the LFP Town Center. When Third Place Books and Third Place Commons moved in, they relocated to the lower level.

LFP Town Center has been their ‘home away from home’ for the last 31 years. Paul and YeeMan grew their business in “tiny baby steps,” while working long hours and carefully listening to what LFP residents value and need, and then they developed those services. 

In return, they established a loyal, friendly, and sophisticated LFP customer base and beyond. Their work is from a place of passion and not profits, and LFP residents appreciate and recognize that characteristic, and the quality of their work shows. “Our customers have good taste,” YeeMan smiles in sincere admiration.

They carry a wide price range - everything is worth looking at here! 

Their store looks like an international jewelry boutique and art gallery in one.

“We were never a traditional jewelry store. We’ve been more like a jewelry doctor and art gallery incorporating many types of artwork and ideas from around the world.” 

VSP handles every customer with the same high standards. When designing jewelry, they consider someone’s features and personality. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a piece of favorite costume jewelry or an heirloom piece; they treat every customer and their treasures with the same respect and care. 

That’s not something you can get off the internet. YeeMan explains that when someone sees a piece of jewelry that catches their eye, it may not be the most attractive piece for them. She asks a lot of questions until she understands the customer better. This process eliminates the risk of creating a piece of jewelry that doesn’t fit that person as there are many reasons they may not have considered. That’s how they make happy customers.

Donna Hawkey checks out the current window display. This well-loved window display allowed many residents and beyond to admire the exquisite pieces that were changed frequently as pieces were either sold or rotated for variety. Photo by YeeMan Lee. 

VSP Jewelry Design Gallery will be missed. Luckily their business was not affected much by online shopping. That’s because this is a one-to-one relationship type of business. And it’s a custom and value-added service they perform - and they work hard - seven days a week as a storefront retailer. 

We have “weathered many storms and dealings with over four Town Center property management firms,” but this storm is different, says YeeMan. While this is a current sad theme for many small businesses across America, in Lake Forest Park, there are so few independent businesses that a loss like this is like severing off an arm of the community.

Paul and YeeMan’s message: “We gratefully thank all the residents of Lake Forest Park and those patrons from afar who have placed their trust in our work and the services we have been providing for over these 30 years. 
"We have enjoyed working with all their treasured pieces and creating new ones, but we have also developed true friendships which are even more valuable than running a business for income.”

Their fast, on-site, and excellent repair service is “key to their longevity despite the ups and downs of the economy,” says YeeMan. Paul apprenticed with a master Goldsmith, and so they repair both gold and silver jewelry right on the spot while a customer does other shopping in the Town Center. Repair services include everything from watch battery replacements to replacing beautiful lost gemstones. The repair service is a big part of their business and helps other Town Center merchants, too.

Town Center is a one-stop kind of shopping place for LFP residents, and it’s the only community gathering place in the entire city. Many of VSP’s customers come by regularly to say hello as they have built strong and lasting relationships.

With the building of a Sound Transit garage soon, the face and culture of the Town Center are now being re-envisioned. 

No two abalone shells are quite the same, so it brings individual beauty and variety to every piece of jewelry.

And the City of Lake Forest Park demographics is changing with older residents passing away or moving out of the area and into other retirement living arrangements. That, too, has affected their business in the last couple of years.

Today, their reopened business is not getting much foot traffic due to COVID-19 and its restrictions. Older adults are mostly keeping sheltered in place, and families have children to take care of, so the local business is down. 

The Town Center escalator and stairwells are still closed, so customers can’t walk down from the area that houses Third Place Books. Instead, they have to walk or drive around to the lower level parking lot to enter, so they are not getting any foot traffic from the upper level. The King County Library and the Planet Fitness gym are still closed, which had provided more foot traffic, equating to more sales for all businesses located on the lower level.

And unlike some stores, VSP has no curbside items to sell. 

A jade carving display highlights not only intricately carved stone but its value as becoming a lost art form.

“There comes a time in life that we must say…we’ve fulfilled our duties with much joy and passion and devoted countless hours to serving our communities’ needs, and now it’s time we make some time for ourselves. 
"We will come back one day with a new business model to continue our repair and design services – so stay tuned as we work out our transformation! 
"Until then, we wish all of you the best of health and happiness and to live a mindfulness life with compassion for others,” says YeeMan and Paul.

VSP sits adjacent to the Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Arts Council Arts Gallery and Gift Shop so many customers like to visit both when shopping at Town Center.

The owners invite you to stop by to say goodbye. And check out their patron gratitude clearance sale - right after the Fourth of July holiday – when YeeMan and Paul begin to strike out into their newfound independence. Good luck to you both!

This is the first time their merchandise has ever been on sale due to keeping “honest prices,” says YeeMan. VSP’s motto is “Very Special Pieces for Very Special People at Very Special Prices!”


Laura Bee July 6, 2020 at 9:40 AM  

This is a wonderful tribute to a unique independent business. It's heartbreaking to see the store close. Without rent relief (shame on the landlords!) how can such a business whether such a storm?! Thank you to the owners for giving their heart and kindness to the community.

Anonymous,  July 7, 2020 at 7:54 AM  

Laura, there will be no rent relief because the state. county and city have not suspended property or B&O taxes. The mall still has to pay utilities and the taxes. If they don't, they close and ALL businesses in the mall shut down or close.

VSP isn't the only one to vacate. The cruise ship travel office did, so did the Cryotherapy office. So the mall and the owners are hurting (they also own Ballinger Village, which saw an anchor tenant go bankrupt and abruptly close).

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