Next to the Ritz Movie Theatre in Tooele City hangs a green awning and sign for a store that’s easy to miss. Six other jewelers were in business when Joaquin “Jake” Jaramillo hung his shingle, but his has remained.
J&J Jewelry has stood at 111 N. Main Street for 27 years. The shop has weathered three decades as bigger jewelers in bigger cities have pushed out all but Jaramillo’s store. But, the real story about J&J isn’t the store; it’s the man behind it.
If you ask Jaramillo, family and hard work are the reasons for his success. He learned those values in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, on his parents’ ranch, one of three ranches the family owned. It was there, at 13 years old, he herded sheep and slept under the stars.
“This man’s been working hard since he was young,” said son Rick Jaramillo about his father.
Jake Jaramillo was 14 and working on family land in New Mexico when he took a job at the Lumberton Tafoya mine. According to his daughter, Crystal Romero, he was underage and undocumented, but with two brothers working at the mine, he was hired.
The supervisor, Jaramillo said, “gave me a job in the mine, but I was illegal.”
He said the supervisor was a family friend who knew Jaramillo worked hard. The ethic was instilled in him as fourth born of the family’s eight kids.
On the family ranch there were cattle, pigs, sheep and chickens, Jaramillo said — and 10 mouths to feed. The size of the family also ensured everyone pitched in. Jaramillo remembers harvesting hay by hand, by raking, pitching and loading it onto a wagon before rolling it to a haystack.
Years later, Jaramillo moved to his older brother Ralph’s home in Utah to work with him in yet another mine — the Bingham Mine. Romero said, there he attended Bingham High School and “met a pretty little lady who played saxophone in the band named Florila Lopez … and fell head over heels in love. They married in 1954 and moved to Tooele, Utah, where Dad had a job with the Tooele Army Depot.”
At TEAD he worked as a quality control inspector. In time, he and Flori became parents to son Ricky and daughter Crystal. To provide well, Jaramillo always held down a second job while he worked at TEAD, Romero remembered.
“We never lacked,” she said. “His goal was to make sure we were taken care of.”
Among his second jobs were stints as an auto and appliance salesman, and for six years he worked with Tooele City’s reserve police department. He also supervised young men who inserted newspaper advertisements by hand for the Rocky Mountain Review at the Tooele Transcript Bulletin.
Romero recalled that her father would come home from TEAD, eat his dinner and go to his second jobs.
Along with his work ethic and his ability to pay attention to detail, Jaramillo was blessed with the ability to work with his hands. He had good, fine motor skills. As a young boy, Jaramillo’s mother had called him Joaquin Cositas, which meant “little things,” meaning he was good with small things.
“He’s able to fabricate anything. If he can’t fix it, it can’t be fixed,” Romero said.
While working for TEAD, Jaramillo saved the army time and money with his innovations, she added, submitting suggestions to streamline the work. One in particular was the M578 Army tank’s track pads, saving the depot 374 hours of inspection time. Along with a money award, he was commended for his innovation.
As a young man, Jaramillo was spry and fit, Romero said. As part of his fitness routine, “he loved to pick up railroad ties every day.”
Jaramillo credits his fitness to exercising and being careful about what he puts in his body.
“I don’t drink liquor, I don’t smoke. It’s been good to me,” he said.
“That’s why he’s lived long,” Romero agreed.
Even now, he keeps barbells behind his display counter so that he can get a workout in between customers.
While his life has been extended, his wife’s was not. He has had to live the last 36 years without his love, Flori. She had been a beautician and been a manager at the Ritz Beauty Shop for seven years when she was diagnosed with gall bladder cancer.
The diagnosis was in Jan. 1981 and she died in September of that year.
Ricky Jaramillo said his parents were “very loving, very caring, very protective.” For Romero, those memories of her parents’ relationship are prized ones.
“They were fun,” she said. “There was a lot of laughing and music in our home — Patsy Cline, Hank Williams.”
Romero said that as young adults, she and her brother remained at home while preparing for adult life. Their parents remained “very strict” but offered unconditional love. As Romero married, after living a short time in West Valley, she wanted to return to Tooele so her “kids could be close to my mom and dad.”
Ricky Jaramillo added that he did the same because, “my roots are here.”
When Flori Jaramillo’s cancer was worsening she made her children promise they would take care of their father.
“Mom told them when she was very sick, ‘you guys take care of your dad,’” Jaramillo said.
Jaramillo said the two have kept their promise.
“I like to keep my house clean and yard pretty, and my kids help,” he said. “I’ve got to keep going with this place.”
Jaramillo is at work six days a week. Romero washes his laundry and Rick Jaramillo helps him with the yard. And, still, he has animals on his property to take care of.
Keeping up with Jaramillo has been an experiment in futility, his two children said, since he is up at 6 a.m. every day.
Of his children, four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, Jaramillo said, “My family and I, we used to get along, we still get along because we do things all of the time together.”
Every Sunday, Jaramillo has a standing date for supper together with his kids, Romero said.
Regarding his family, Jaramillo said, “Respect and love them and they’re good to you.
“My grandkids, they mean the world to me,” he added. “I love them to death.”
Rick Jaramillo said he has often teased his father that he could retire and close down the shop, but Jaramillo’s reply is, “I’m not the boss. The customers are my boss. … We tell them the truth, treat them good and with respect when they come here.”
Most of the work Jaramillo does in his shop is on watches, clocks and his displays. He is as good with an old, early twentieth-century cuckoo clock as a modern day watch. But he also enjoys working on cars in his spare time, including a ‘91 Lincoln Town Car that he still drives.
Romero said her dad has an eye for pairing up watches and rings. Jaramillo continues to work hard and slowing down doesn’t seem to be in his immediate future.
Jaramillo reminisced that while he “worked at the depot all of those years, my bosses were good to me. I worked hard. I treated them with respect … never talked back. I was respectful.”
These two concepts of hard work and respect have taken Jaramillo a long way from his early start on his family farm in Pagosa Springs, to a fulfilling life with three generations of posterity surrounding and loving him in Tooele. His legacy of hard work will remain.