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Platinum wedding set from Caron Jewelers
Gold wedding set from Caron Jewelers

We had the chance to chat with Becky (via email) from Jay-El Trophies & Awards, Inc. about the company and its history. Check it out below!

Could you tell me a bit about how Jay-El started and what it does (what services or goods it provides)? (And is there a story about its name?)

Jay-El Trophies & Awards Inc. started in 1962 by my father, John F. Lunney Jr.  He was 26 at the time and newly engaged to my Mom, Priscilla Ferrara.  With the impending wedding, he was feeling the pressure of providing for his new bride and hopefully family in the future.  He was lying on his bed, in his childhood home, staring at his bowling trophies when inspiration struck.  He thought, “How about opening up a trophy shop?”  There weren’t many businesses that offered those services in the state and there were none in the East Bay area. (This was also before the internet.) He borrowed $50 from my grandparents – who weren’t completely sold on the idea – to buy his first engraving machine 

and type. What began out of a basement, doing simple plaques and trophies, has lasted 60 years.  

We provide all types of engraving services on many mediums; silver, glass, aluminum, brass, plastic, acrylic etc.  Our specialty is to create unique, custom, one of a kind awards along with gifts, trophies, embroidery and silk screen apparel, as well as promotional items.  The name of the business is a take on my dad’s initials.  (John Lunney = JL = Jay-El). 

What makes Jay-El unique?

As mentioned before, our specialty is creating unique, one of a kind awards.  We have mounted everything from lobster shells for a former president to a skull on a stake for a Halloween contest to parts of ships for local yacht clubs.  We have awards in over 30 countries and have designed pieces for Oprah as well as local celebrity Anthony Quinn.  My dad’s motto was to never turn down a job.  He loved the challenge, and he never failed at creating something that you would not be able to get anywhere else or out of a catalog.  We take the customers’ ideas and turn them into reality.  

We also have a reputation for being able to engrave difficult pieces.  My brother John, who runs the business with me, has over 35 plus years of experience as a master engraver.  We have generations of loyal customers who we are very grateful for.

What do you think people should know about Jay-El trophies?

That we are so much more than a trophy store!  Our name has been limiting, but our longevity makes it impossible to change.  If we had a dollar for every time people said, “I didn’t know you did that!”  We explain that we can actually do anything personalized – it is definitely not just trophies!

What is your favorite part of your work?

Personally, my favorite part of my work is the people that come in year after year.  It is like catching up with an old friend or family member that you haven’t seen in awhile, and you pick up right where you left off. They remember my parents and always have a story to tell.  They remember us as children, and now they are getting to know our kids.  Both of our parents are gone now – almost 30 years for my mom, and 6 years for my dad.  Every day when I come into work, I see reminders of them everywhere.  It’s a blessing and a curse.  We have great memories of working together and learning from them. Our customers just reinforce the bond that they shared and their ability to provide such a great service to their community in their stories. 

Being a small business owner is very difficult, especially in the last few years.  But we keep trying to use the lessons we have learned while adapting to the needs of an ever changing customer base.  For example, my dad’s first order was for 1 plaque.  The customer gave him over a month to complete the job!  Now, we are lucky if we get a few days.  But, if you come through for your customer, they will come through for you with future orders!

Find Jay-El Trophies & Awards at 468 Thames Street in Bristol, Rhode Island.