Business: Gold ’n’ Diamonds and Gold Plus

Owner: Ali Merchant, 38, of Mays Landing

Location: Hamilton Mall, Mays Landing

Started: 1991

Employees: Six

Sales: About $200,000 annually

Phone: 609-646-1786

We sell gold, bracelets, diamonds and earrings, and we offer custom repair of jewelry. We do customized work such as engraving, and offer watch repair service, too, such as fixing the watch or changing the battery.

We have charm bracelets and necklaces, crosses, gemstones, engagement rings and wedding bands.

We mostly have gold jewelry, and about 30 percent of our inventory is silver jewelry.

Some of the most popular items are shamballa bracelets made from rhinestones — from $30 to $70.

Many girls like to wear belly rings these days. They can be plain or they might have decorations on them. We can engrave them right away, but we don’t do the piercing here.

Most of the time we can repair jewelry right away, too.

Necklaces still sell well and we carry a large variety. We have earrings for any age, from small children on up.

Demand for jewelry has kept going down since the recession. It hasn’t come back yet. The jewelry industry is bigger than the auto industry, but no one gives it any attention and it’s losing jobs, too. Things are pretty tough nowadays.

If gold was about $300 an ounce like it was 10 years ago, things would be better. Now it’s more than $1,600 an ounce.

An item we used to sell for $30 now we have to charge almost $100.

Entry: I was a very good jewelry salesperson in South Carolina. My brother used to work at a jewelry store in this Hamilton Mall and we got an offer to have a kiosk here. We put $8,000 down and we have five partners. I bought everybody out and took over the business myself.

I took the jewelry store, called Gold Plus, and I built up the value of it to $25,000, working very hard, day and night. Then I bought the store my brother used to work in, giving me a regular storefront.

The mall wanted that store back from me and they took the lease back and gave me the second kiosk. The rent was pretty high at the regular store, $2,500 at that time, now about $4,100, and I wasn’t making it. It’s especially hard with this economy and times being so tough.

Future plans: I’m trying to open another store in a different location, in the Moorestown Mall in Burlington County.