Elizabeth Avenue Losing an Iconic Store
Leonardo Jewelers is Moving Its Elizabeth Store to Metuchen – Closing Its Iconic Elizabeth Store After 54 Years.

ELIZABETH, NJ. An iconic Elizabeth business destination for more than half a century will be closing its Elizabeth location at 5 PM, Saturday, September 30. Leonardo Jewelers has been a part of the Elizabeth landscape for generations. Although it is sad to see the closure of this store, its other two locations in Red Bank and Metuchen will continue to serve customers in our region.

Leonardo Jewelers is an example of how family businesses can have an impact to their local communities. It is also a wonderful example of the American dream. To understand this one needs a brief background on their history.

The founder of Leonardo Jewelers, Leonardo Zeik, was a leader of the nascent Cuban immigrant community. He came to the United States with no worldly possessions in 1961 with a wife and four young children. He first started working in a pepper mill factory and, in his spare time, at a gas station cleaning cars. When his fifth child was born, he realized he needed to supplement his earnings so he purchased a valise and began selling jewelry door to door.

By October of 1964 he opened his first jewelry store on Third Street, Elizabeth. During this time Cuban refugees were arriving in droves without money or credit. At this first jewelry store, he also sold a variety of things the immigrant community needed, from toaster ovens and appliances to some clothing. Although he had little money himself, Leonardo realized that these newly arriving Cubans had nothing themselves, and many needed to clothe their children or needed appliances for their homes. Leonardo saw himself in each Cuban immigrant who visited his store. He understood they had no credit and no money, but had families with great needs. When they came to his store, he would offer his goods on a handshake and with interest free $5 weekly payments. This led to incredibly loyal customers who appreciated the compassion they witnessed from this man. Thus, Leonardo Jewelers was born.

Shortly thereafter, Leonardo purchased the building next to its existing Elizabeth location, only to find out after purchasing it, that he was not permitted to open a jewelry store in that location. So, instead he opened a clothing store and gave it to his two brothers to own. In 1969, Leonardo purchased the building where the current Elizabeth store now exists. He had no money to purchase it, but the owner of the building sold it to him on a handshake and a promise to pay it off in five years.

In the 1970s, Leonardo began searching for better quality jewelry than was readily available in the United States. This brought him to Italy from where he imported spectacular pieces. During this period the business was transformed – Leonardo Jewelers became widely renowned as an incredible place to find gorgeous jewelry. It was also during this period that the business became an Official Rolex Jeweler – becoming the first Latin American owned jeweler in the USA with this designation.

In 1989, its flagship store in Red Bank was opened. In 1996 Leonardo retired leaving his business to his children, and in 2017 the store in Metuchen was opened. Today, Leonardo Jewelers is considered one of the state’s finest jewelers and is owned and operated by Leonardo’s children. It also is considered one of America’s leading watch stores. Yet, their father’s compassion continues as a hallmark of their business to this day. Most who visit the stores say they are made to feel like a part of the family.

Vivian Zeik Lund, one of the owners of Leonardo Jewelers said this about the store closure: “It is a bittersweet moment for us. It's the city that welcomed our family when our parents fled Cuba in 1961. It's the town that most of us grew up in. It's the town that our business developed and thrived.” She goes on, “No matter how much time goes by, we will always consider ourselves’ from Elizabeth and will always have Elizabeth in our hearts.”

The Leonardo Jewelers owners welcome you to continue visiting them in Red Bank and Metuchen or on their website. However, they will miss the city that opened their arms to their parents and allowed them to flourish.


Michael Zeik