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Jewel of a Business 

It's been 30 years since Hans Luetkemeier & Son Inc. (3246 Severn Ave., Metairie, 454-1170; first introduced New Orleans to his fine craftsmanship and refined tastes in jewelry and special estate finds. Now the business has a national reputation and customers from all over the country who depend on the store for its variety of estate jewelry and antique silver serving pieces, unique custom designs and overall service.

"Mostly what we do is antique and estate jewelry, custom design and contemporary jewelry," says Erin Luetkemeier, who manages the family-owned business for her father-in-law, Hans. "My father-in-law is a master gold and silversmith, so we do a lot of silver repairs, refurbishing, replating old tea sets and that type of thing."

The store, which moved to Metairie from its French Quarter location six years ago, also stocks gift items such as sterling silver and pewter baby accessories, wedding presents and more. The business also custom designs wedding and engagement rings and other special jewelry pieces and keeps the jewelers on staff busy with jewelry and watch repairs.

"We sell lots of vintage watches and pre-owned Rolexes, designer watches, pocket watches, old women's diamond and platinum watches," Erin says. "My father-in-law does a lot of the jewelry work himself, and we have several jewelers on staff. We do have a full-time jeweler in the store at all times."

Hans and his wife travel often to wholesale shows all over the country, where they buy special pieces and sell Luetkemeier designs. That exposure and Hans' reputation as a first-class master gold and silversmith brings in lots of silver repair work and customers who want quality, upscale jewelry creations. The business consistently has a strong base of customers from cities such as Houston, Atlanta, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Customers can always depend on finding unusual items in the store, and the Luetkemeiers pride themselves on supplying customers with jewelry they won't see in other places.

"All the merchandise is hand-selected, whether we manufacture it or it's estate pieces," says Erin, who does much of the buying for the store. "It's usually one-of-a-kind; I'll never have 10 of the same thing. You'll never see another one somewhere else." She will, however, special order several matching pieces for bridesmaids and wedding parties. The store does business with dealers that manufacture in Italy and other world markets, but she still selects pieces individually. "I sit with their merchandise and pick piece by piece," she says. "It's not a catalog situation. A majority of the stuff is original pieces." The store also buys jewelry from the public and conducts appraisals.

Another large portion of the Luetkemeiers' business comes from lovely reproduction Victorian slides for bracelets and necklaces that Hans creates with precious and semi-precious stones and 14-karat white or yellow gold.

Safe Haven for Fun

Like the old English legend Friar Tuck, who protected Robin Hood and Sherwood Forest while maintaining a jovial attitude, the local bar of the same name provides a safe haven and fun spot for college students and others looking for a comfortable place to eat, drink and be merry.

Friar Tuck's (5130 Freret St., 891-4080) has been a favored hangout for college students, especially those from nearby Tulane and Loyola universities, for more than 40 years, and some Loyola students even started a popular Mardi Gras krewe in 1969 -- the Krewe of Tucks -- in honor of the bar.

"We have a lot of history in the city," says owner Jason Blitch, who bought the bar in 2000. "We've been around since the '60s, and it's a college tradition. My parents used to hang around here."

Unlike some bars that cater to the college crowd and are known for being rowdy and unkept, Blitch says he keeps Friar Tuck's well repaired and endeavors to be a welcoming part of the neighborhood around him.

"We like to keep it looking nice, because without your neighbors you are nothing," he says, adding that he does maintenance on the building often to keep it attractive and even paints over graffiti in the bathroom as soon as he finds it. "I'm very much a part of the neighborhood. The neighborhood people Š are here daily. They've learned that not all bars are out to make the property value of your home decrease."

Mostly, though, Friar Tuck's is popular because it is friendly, safe and welcoming. "People know that when you come here, you're going to have fun," Blitch says. "It's relaxed. You can come by yourself and not be left out." In addition to the 200 types of alcohol and 12 different beers on tap, Friar Tuck's also offers burgers, sandwiches and other bar food, vintage games like Donkey Kong, a dozen televisions and two 10-foot-screen TVs where customers can watch sports or their favorite television show, wireless Internet connections, and an endless array of music from a jukebox, CDs or satellite radio.

click to enlarge Master gold and silversmith Hans Luetkemeier looks over just a few of the jewelry creations at his eponymous store in Metairie.
  • Master gold and silversmith Hans Luetkemeier looks over just a few of the jewelry creations at his eponymous store in Metairie.


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