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The Family Jewelers

A son uses a franchise to follow in his father's jewelry-fixing footsteps.

When Ben Vargas was little, he'd sit on his father's lap and watch him fix watches. Later, father and son worked side-by-side as jewelers for the Navy.

Today, Vargas, 39, is running his own shop. The owner of a Fast-Fix Jewelry Repairs franchise in Temecula, California, Vargas repairs, designs, engraves and makes jewelry and watches, and repairs eyeglasses.

Vargas got his start as a Fast-Fix employee in San Diego, after he and his father lost their Navy contract. Impressed with his salesmanship, the location's owner offered to sell Vargas his business. That deal fell through, but Vargas was able to buy a location from another franchisee in 1996. The only problem was, the store was two and a half hours away from his home, making for an awful commute and little family time.

Finally, in 1999, Vargas built a new store in Temecula, between San Diego and Los Angeles, and moved his family there. With accounting and sales help from his wife, Corinne, within a year and a half, the store's sales ranked in the top 15 for the Fast-Fix system.

And reminiscent of the childhood days he and his brothers (one of whom was inspired by Vargas to become a Fast-Fix franchisee himself in San Diego) spent accompanying their father to work, Vargas brings his two sons to the shop. The boys, ages 4 and 8, each have little drawers filled with broken watches and other pieces to tinker with.

"Both my boys will probably [get into this business]," Vargas says. "They don't have to if they don't want to, but the opportunity is there, and they'll probably take it."

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This article was originally published in the October 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Family Jewelers.

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