CARDOW JEWELERS IS BORN
Interaction with hotel guests convinced William Dowling that there was a pent-up demand for gift items on St. Thomas. Much of his time was devoted to informing his guests as to the best buys in town and soon he was selling a small number of jewelry at his Carib Beach Hotel, basically out of a suitcase. In 1958 he opened a small jewelry store at the hotel.
At the time, Claude Caron, co-owner of C & M Caron, was purchasing their jewelry in bulk.
In the early 1960s C & M Caron expanded and, being cognizant of the impending boom in the tourism section, William Dowling, Sr. contacted Claude and offered to enter into a contractual agreement with him for the establishment of a Main Street Jewelry Store.
In 1962 William Dowling Jr. and Claude Caron executed a joint venture to open a perfume, gift and jewelry store in a building that William Dowling, Sr. had obtained a lease. Caron would be responsible for supplying key personnel and jewelry, mostly made in Italy, to the newly opened business.
The new business was named “Cardow”, which is a combination of both last names. The “Car” of Caron and the “Dow” of Dowling.
However, the joint venture was dissolved soon after it started. After dissolution of the partnership, Dowling decided to be the sole proprietor of the new business but retained the name "Cardow Jewelers".
Charlotte Amalie's History with Fire
In the early 1800's, there were a series of severe man-made fires in Charlotte Amalie and each one destroyed between 500 and 1,200 buildings and homes. Initially, timber was used for most of the re-construction of homes and warehouses since it was a readily accessible material. Due to the fires and destruction, building material changed to imported brick and local hard lava to ensure that fire could not decimate the town again. The new mandate for the material to be employed was enforced by shop owners because foreign suppliers needed assurance that the goods they provided on credit would not be lost in an inferno with a resultant loss to them.
"The fires of 1804-1832 brought about a series of restrictive building codes which greatly affected the visual character of the town, a character which remains to this day. The earliest codes called for the widening of streets or the construction of additional ones, in an attempt to lessen density, and also called for the voluntary use of masonry for new construction, especially in the warehouse areas." ~ Historic District Guide.
Building on Up
Upon the lease for the property being finalized in 1963, William Sr. led the work to transform the building from a warehouse - one of the items was to demolish a partition that was in the building, into Cardow Jeweler's flagship store. In 1971, a second story was added to the Cardow Jewelers Main Street structure and this provided a larger area on the first floor to display and sell merchandise. In addition, the offices which had been located on the ground floor were moved to the second floor and a lounge and more elaborate bathroom facilities were constructed on the second floor for employees.
Importantly, the second floor was constructed with a high ceiling to provide enough room to hang the French tapestries given to Bill by a French acquaintance.
Where the Jewelry Comes From
Bill began to purchase merchandise for the store in Paris but soon started to purchase merchandise direct from several Italian factories. In 1974, Bill opened a factory in Hong Kong to manufacture jewelry for his growing market. Eliminating the middleman allows Cardow to sell its merchandise at relatively low prices.
Much of the jewelry sold by Cardow was designed under the direction of William Dowling. Bill immersed himself in the design and manufacturing of the merchandise at his Hong Kong facility. During the design process with his Aunt Mary Fitzgerald, who was considered a par excellence connoisseur of the jewelry taste of the middle and upper classes of American women, Bill would study fashion trends and consult with the sales associates as to what they thought would be good sellers.
Today Cardow Jewelers continues its tradition of high-quality beautiful pieces at the best prices available in the Caribbean, duty free. Stop in to one of our location today!