April 16, 2015 07:27 AM
Patty Naomi, Don Whisnant and Trey Graham
Photo by Robin May

Paul’s Jewelry store will remain a long-standing fixture of the Oil Center after a serious look at picking up roots to expand the River Ranch location.

“We are the old dog of the Oil Center.

Everyone else has come and gone,” says Patty Naomi, who along with siblings PJ and Nancy are the second generation running the Lafayette business.

Just months ago an architect was hired, plans drawn and Paul’s two stores were to morph into one at the present River Ranch location on Silverstone Road.

“It was turning into quite a project, and Nancy and PJ and I were not at ease with the decision because the Oil Center is where we grew up and where we worked with our parents and it’s very sentimental to us,” Patty says.

While she says sentiments are not what you should base business on, the trio of siblings felt the strong ties of the location on Oil Center Drive were an important part of the Paul’s legacy. Couple that with new growth, and Patty sees a renaissance for the part of Lafayette that once was the darling for all shopping.

“We see it’s starting to transform into something else once again and it’s gone through many of these, so if it’s in the middle of its regrowth we want to be there and be a part of it as we have been a part of it for so many decades,” she says. “I think it’s on the brink.”

In addition to staying put at the spot where they have been for more than 30 years after opening originally Downtown in 1954, the Paul’s store has made some personnel changes starting with moving employee Trey Graham into the manager role as longtime Manager Marietta Zeringue relocates out of state.

“We are very excited about Trey and his new leadership,” Patty says.

Add to that the addition of two local experts in the business — Don Whisnant and Mimi Bonin — and the return of sales associate David Fontenot from the River Ranch store and the Oil Center is getting a fresh new lineup.

“Don is an expert and he loves Lafayette,” Patty says of the longtime jeweler who owned his own store off of Johnston Street for years. “We are thrilled to have his expertise and knowledge at the Oil Center. He understands the family nature of what we do — that it’s about people.”

Bonin once had her own shop in the Oil Center as well. Fontenot, who has worked at Paul’s for a decade, returned to the Oil Center in mid-March after a seven-month stint at the River Ranch store.

Patty says the team is an example of the kind of people who make up Oil Center businesses — locals, experts.

“The Oil Center is like the heartbeat of Lafayette — where you find those very distinct places that aren’t all saying the same thing and you get great personal service. You drive and park at the front of the store and someone you know greets you and helps you and they actually know what they’re selling and inform you about it.” — AB

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