Bob Mason keeps talking about families, and it becomes clear that the people he's referring to are not actual family, but customers.
Or, customers as most people would call them -- clients, consumers, folks buying watches and rings.
To Mason, owner and president of Rone Regency Jewelers, those buying his products are family.
He's a thread in the fabric of their history now, their significant events -- graduations, marriages, retirements, babies.
That's the jewelry business, he says.
"Even in a depression or a downturn, people still need an engagement ring or a push present," said his wife, Sherry on Monday.
In January, Rone Regency celebrated its 70th anniversary.
Mason came on board in 1970, after leaving the Army National Guard and seeking work through an employment agency, which directed him to Frank Varallo and Rone Regency Jewelers.
Mason grew up in Nashville, but knew the last name Varallo, because it belonged to a couple of prominent restauranteurs up there.
"I knew there couldn't be too many Varallos in the South," he said.
They were, in fact, the uncles of Chattanooga's Varallo, the jeweler, who soon became Mason's boss. At first, Mason cleaned the floors, showcases and bathrooms on occasion.
"There were no managers," Mason remembers. "We did whatever needed to be done."
Eventually, he would talk with customers -- or families -- when Varallo or the sales staff were busy.
And he was given one very solid directive: "Don't tell a lie in my store to make a sale."
Because "you didn't want to make Mr. Varallo mad, I can tell you that," Mason said.
It's ultimately the influence of Varallo, who died in November, combined with the advice of Mason's Grandma Dillon that has shaped the way Rone Regency operates under his watch.
"When I was 5-years-old, she said 'Bobby, you remember one thing: it doesn't cost anything to be nice to people, and you're only accountable for the way you treat somebody, not the way they treat you,'" Mason remembers.
He think those guiding principles have guided Rone Regency through good times and bad times, helping the store see revenue increases every year.
Mason takes pride in word-of-mouth advertising, and loyal customers.
"They are the reason we are successful," he said.
On Monday, Emily Goldberg brought her 4-year-old, Paisley, into the shop to look at birth stone items.
Goldberg's father bought her mother's engagement ring here.
Goldberg's own engagment ring came from here.
Mason slipped Paisley Goldberg a toy diamond and gave her two of her birth stones.
He said families like this are the reason Rone Regency is still in business.
Paisley Goldberg was enamored with her "magic" diamond, the way young Mason was with rocks he used to find in the creek.
Emily Goldberg was flabbergasted that Mason would just give away two birth stones.
"This guy's a good man," she said. "He's done a lot for us."
Family, not customers. And that's the way it will always be, said Mason.
Contact staff writer Alex Green at email@example.com or 423-757-6480.
Alex Green joined the Times Free Press staff full-time in January 2014 after completing the paper's six-month, general assignment reporter internship. Alex grew up in Dayton, Tenn., which is also where he studied journalism at Bryan College. He graduated from Rhea County High School in 2008. During college, Alex covered the city of Graysville and the town of Spring City for The Herald-News. As editor-in-chief of Bryan College's student news group, Triangle, Alex reported on ...