Dale Taylor was working at a shoe store on Main Street in Cortland in 1978 when he walked into the nearby Fiorentini Jewelers, hoping to buy an engagement ring from owner Louis Fiorentini, Sr.
“I couldn’t afford anything,” Taylor recalled Thursday. “I was working at the store for like $135 a week. You could put down 10% (on jewelry purchases) and make monthly installments for nine months. There were no finance charges. It was great.”
Fiorentini, 96, died Monday. Calling hours will be 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. today at Wright-Beard Funeral Home, 9 Lincoln Ave., Cortland, with a service at 1:30 p.m.
Fiorentini and his wife of 71 years, Lillian “Lil” M. Fiorentini, ran the jewelry store for 41 years, beginning June 26, 1948, until closing it about 20 years ago. Lil Fiorentini died Oct. 8, 2018.
Taylor, who would eventually buy Sarvay Shoes and run that shop for decades, said Thursday that Louis Fiorentini was from an older generation and he did not know him well, but he credits Fiorentini for old-time business practices that made it possible to afford gifts for the woman he loved.
“When I first got engaged to my wife in 1978, he had a policy,” Taylor said, explaining that he put $60 down and made $60 monthly payments, with no interest, for nine months. Taylor also bought his future wife diamond-studded earrings and a necklace from Fiorentini’s Jewelers for their first Christmas together.
“I’m sure Louie instituted that,” said Taylor, who was thrilled with such generous financing. “You can’t do that anymore.”
Francis “Fritz” Mullen operated Mullen Office Outfitters next to Fiorentini Jewelers for years. Mullen said Thursday he had known the Fiorentinis for years before the jewelry store moved next to his Main Street shop.
“He was very pleasant. He had a nice store. … As a merchant, I saw him in and out,” Mullen said. “He always had nice people working for him. They were friendly and knowledgeable.”
Mullen said when Fiorentini Jewelers first moved next door, Main Street was a bustling commercial center.
“There were four or five jewelry stores, all busy, “ Mullen said. “Back when Main Street was in its heyday, there were a lot of customers before the big box stores arrived.”
Fiorentini, a Cortland native, opened his first store on June 26, 1948, at 17 S. Main St., Homer, after he graduated from Morrisville Technical College with a degree in horology, or watchmaking.
He went to Morrisville to study auto mechanics, but soon noticed his roommate, a horology major, would come back from clases neat, unlike auto mechanics majors, he said in an 1987 Cortland Standard article. His education was interrupted when he served four years in the Army during World War II, returning home after being injured in battle. One day later, he opened his store.
After operating at several locations, including 13 years at 25 Clinton Ave., Cortland, it was moved to its final location at 26 Main St., Cortland in 1960. The site had been a jewelry store since the late 1800s, including Andrew’s Jewelers, for which Fiorentini worked while in college.