Frank Varallo, a well-liked and respected jeweler in Chattanooga for more than 60 years, died Tuesday afternoon at age 94.
Varallo, a native of Nashville, started his jewelry career by following in his father's footsteps. In 1939, he enrolled at Elgin Watch College, graduating from its 12-month apprenticeship program in six months.
In 1944, he moved to Chattanooga to manage the Rone Jewelry Co. location at 741 Market St. He bought the store from the Rone Jewelers chain in about 1956. Varallo also opened a store in Brainerd Village in 1960, which was later merged with the downtown location into a Gunbarrel Road jewelry store.
In the late 1960s, he changed the company name to Rone-Regency Jewelers. The company's double R and crown insignia became a well-known Chattanooga logo.
"He was a great man to work for, and he taught me everything I know," said current store owner Bob Mason. "He was like a father to me."
Varallo grew his reputation as a registered jeweler with the American Gem Society. In 1992, he was named Retail Jeweler of the Year by the 24 Karat Club of the Southeastern United States.
"He took care of everyone who ever worked for him," Mason said. "He expected people to work hard, but he was always giving more. They didn't ever have to worry about their well being."
Varallo was a member of the local Lions Club, Rotary Club of Chattanooga, Sierra Club and a charter member of the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce. Varallo was also active in the Chattanooga Riverfront Project.
"He was a very giving person," Mason said. "He gave a lot behind the scenes that nobody ever knew of."
Contact staff writer Jeff LaFave at email@example.com or 423-757-6592.