For 15 years Jose Cuenquijano shared a space with Juan Fausto, owner of Ed’s Shoe Repair. Cuenquijano’s Nestor Watch Repair Center was located in a 6 by 10 corner where he worked hard repairing watches and jewelry, and changing watch batteries. The arrangement worked out well. Then last February, Fausto decided to retire and Cuenquijano took over the entire space with the intention of doing a remodel and selling more items like watches and jewelry.
When the lockdown happened, Cuenquijano had to close for about a month and a half. “I was worried but I was visualizing the [new] place,” he said.
When he first re-opened, customers were not allowed to go in the store but handed him the items from the front door where he had a table set up. That gave him the opportunity to start remodeling the space.
With the help of his wife, son-in-law, and brother they did a complete remodel. The store looks completely different now and it looks much larger. The remodel was finished last week and it’s hard to recognize what the the old store looked like. The biggest project was the floor which was very dirty. Cuenquijano spent a lot of time cleaning it, and gave it a new look with confetti and two coats of varnish. He and his wife installed new dry wall, family members helped with new wiring, and orange peel ceilings. Cuenquijano proudly showed off the new store, including a little room in the back with a small fridge and microwave and a 1940s safe which he still uses for his customers’ items. The next project is to remove the old security cameras and replace them with new ones.
Cuenquijano said he was hurting financially for a while, like many other businesses due to the pandemic, but the last two weeks have been good with an increase business.
Cuenquijano plans to have more showcases for the jewelry and watches he sells and offer more items for sale like wall clocks. As part of the expansion of his business he started making keys and selling batteries for car remotes and FOBs.
Some of the services he offers include resizing rings in sterling silver and gold, fixing clasps, jewelry repair and of course watch repairs. Polishing and cleaning is included with every job. Apart from the repair business, Cuenquijano sells some watches, vintage jewelry, sterling silver necklaces, earrings and pendants and fashion jewelry as well. Gold jewelry can be ordered through a catalogue.
Cuenquijano said many of his customers have found him by searching online where he has received many positive reviews.
Cuenquijano explained that he started in the watch repair business almost by accident. After having a variety of jobs, including working for the city of San Diego, he started selling watches, jewelry and clothes at swap meets. “People thought I was in the watch business and asked me if I fixed them,” he recalled.
In 1992 he met a man who became his mentor. “He saw the talent in me. He taught me to fix watches and I started loving it and doing it with a passion. Now I don’t see myself doing anything else,” he said.
For a few years he worked at Home Depot and Loews, while owning the business, but he was not happy and decided to go back to it full time.
When Cuenquijano first opened Nestor Watch Repair Center, it was located at Coronado Avenue and Hollister Street across from Nestor Way - so he chose the word Nestor for his store name that he owned from 1995 to 2004. When news that the building was going to be demolished he found the current location to set up his business.
His future plans include offering more items for sale, but that’s all in the planning stages for now because he wants to make sure not to overextend himself. “I want to start saving more money and don’t go out of my budget,” he said.
Cuenquijano is happy with the results of the remodel and has heard the same from his customers. “They all love it. They say ‘It’s so clean and so big,’ ” he said.
Nestor Watch Repair Center, 635 9th Street. Call 619-423-2488. Hours: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays, Saturday 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Closed Sunday.