Operating out of the same Riverside Drive property that once belonged to Moe Howard of the Three Stooges, Generales & Generales has provided Toluca Lake residents with fine custom-made jewelry for generations.
The full-service jewelry and watch repair store opened in 1969, soon after Sylvia Generales’ family left Michigan to settle in Toluca Lake. Originally called Van Ohanian Jewelers and run by Sylvia’s parents, Van and Helen Ohanian, the store quickly drew attention from the Hollywood crowd and locals alike. “Hollywood embraced our business,” Sylvia recalls. “My dad hand-created jewelry for the celebrities we called friends and neighbors. We immediately loved Toluca Lake because business was booming, the community was welcoming and needless to say, Toluca Lake didn’t have Detroit winters.”
Whether it was destiny or a perfect Hollywood ending, Sylvia and her husband, Peter, who was born and raised in Toluca Lake, were first introduced to each other at the annual Holiday Open House event after “the Generales and Ohanian family businesses ended up being on the exact same block,” Sylvia says.
For decades, the dynamic couple has perfectly demonstrated why family-owned businesses in Toluca Lake are so special. While Sylvia hunts for unique stones at gem shows, researches the world’s latest trending designs before they reach the U.S. and handpicks each stone, Peter has developed the store’s custom design practice and went back to school to become an accredited appraiser.
“We’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to work together,” Peter says. “We’ve been the true definition of a team, as we’ve navigated the industry’s changes over the last few decades and carved out our business’ strengths. Genuinely, we couldn’t have done it without each other.”
With help from their passionate team members — including an in-house master jeweler, sales associate and watchmaker who’ve worked at the store for over 75 combined years — Generales & Generales has withstood and adapted to downturns, innumerable trend changes and, most recently, a pandemic to become what Peter says is “the oldest and longest-lasting retail store in Toluca Lake.”
“We have been so lucky to be a part of this wonderful community,” Sylvia adds. “When COVID hit last year, our neighbors all worked together to ensure everyone was making it through. It’s no surprise this was the case because our business’ neighbors are like family. We have been in business for 53 years. It’s precious that we get to work with some of the great-grandchildren of our customers who we knew from years ago.”
But it’s not just nostalgia and friendly faces that have kept residents coming back for more than half a century. “We make sure our business stays relevant by creating different ways to design new and exciting pieces,” Sylvia says. “We design, fabricate and sell bespoke pieces and also sell designer jewelry. We also use recycled metals whenever we can and help our customers create pieces from their loved ones’ jewelry that they no longer wear.”
Peter and Sylvia’s love and admiration for Toluca Lake is demonstrated in the countless years they’ve spent giving back to the community. Peter served as the president of the Toluca Lake Chamber of Commerce (TLCOC) after being involved for over eight years with the volunteer organization. During his time as president, Peter was responsible for bringing the Toluca Lake Village clock project to fruition. “As part of my goal to unify Toluca Lake, I felt having a permanent landmark was important,” Peter says. “Such structures aren’t only visually beautiful but can help people feel connected to their community and give a sense of place and time. Soon, my dream will come to pass when the project is completed.”
Sylvia currently serves on the TLCOC board, where she works with “enthusiastic people who love our community and want to help it grow and flourish,” she explains. Sylvia also belongs to the Women’s Jewelry Association and Jewelers of America.
“Our favorite thing about working and living in Toluca Lake is that it’s a small, but strong community,” Sylvia says. “We have everything we need here, including coffee shops, amazing restaurants, markets and gift shops. Our dear family and friends are also in this community, so this is home and exactly where we want to be.”