Brothers David and Gary Rubel are gems in the local community, helping their family’s legacy gleam and glisten.
By Tanya A. Yacina
David and Gary Rubel have more or less been involved in the jewelry business their entire lives. Now co-owners of Fredric H. Rubel Jewelers, which has locations in Laguna Beach and Mission Viejo, the brothers weren’t the first to work in the industry: The original concept for the store began with their grandparents in 1928 when they opened Crescent Jewelers in San Bernardino, California. The family’s involvement in the business has continued ever since. In fact, Gary’s daughter Charlotte is now the fourth generation of the Rubel family to work in the business.
“Our dad, Fredric, came into the business officially in the mid-1950s and changed the business model to what it is today,” David says. “Originally, our grandparents’ stores sold jewelry, but they also sold silverware, movie projectors, radios and other items. Our dad had a lot of vision. Our family moved to Santa Ana, and he opened a store there and [another] in Mission Viejo.”
“Dad developed the model; he had a vision that he wanted to make the store a true fine jewelry store and got involved in different organizations, like the American Gem Society, so he could find the best manufacturers,” Gary explains. “He set the groundwork for us, and he had a real knack for buying.”
Eventually, David and Gary became part of the family business, too. Both men had gone away to college, each earning unrelated degrees, and then were sent to the Gemological Institute of America to obtain the knowledge on gems they’d need to continue the family legacy. David officially came into the business in 1981, and Gary joined the family team in 1982.
After spending their childhoods visiting Laguna Beach, David and Gary came back to town as residents in the 1990s. Then, in 2004, as the lease on the Santa Ana location was coming due, they decided to move the store to its current location on Forest Avenue. The storefront had previously been occupied by the Hayes family, who still does watch repairs for the Rubel’s stores today.
“We don’t try to do too many things—we’re not a one-stop shop and we stick to what we do best,” David notes. “We’re a relationship business. People are comfortable with us and we’re the go-to family jeweler for their special occasions.”
“We want someone to try something on and be happy and proud when they wear it,” Gary says. “I think we make shopping for and celebrating a significant other or yourself an easy and enjoyable experience.”
Today, the stores specialize in fine jewelry, offering pieces by well-known designers such as David Yurman, Roberto Coin and Kwiat diamonds, as well as many other prominent brands. The Laguna Beach and Mission Viejo stores serve all of south Orange County.
“This is a legacy business, and something we can pass on to our kids to keep it going,” David explains. “It’s also a healthy business. We’ve been super fortunate, and even during the COVID shutdowns, our customers were still inquiring about products and continued to buy.”
Caring for the Community
David and Gary Rubel, owners of Fredric H. Rubel Jewelers, both raised their children in town and have been active participants in many aspects of the fabric of Laguna.
As vice president for the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce, David Rubel has a vested interest not only in his own business but others in town as well. Through his work with the chamber, he recently served as part of the ad hoc group that was formed to make recommendations for Laguna’s downtown plan in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent business closures. “[Laguna Beach] is a really special community where people generally care about each other. … It makes [up] the glue of the community,” David says. “The Promenade [on Forest] has helped the restaurants downtown and I’m hopeful it will save others [as well]. The city did an amazing job of getting the promenade together quickly, and has been really supportive of … making it vibrant.”
In addition to receiving recognition as certified gemologist appraisers through the American Gem Society, Fredric H. Rubel Jewelers received SchoolPower’s Hall of Fame award in 2013, which acknowledged the company’s support of the educational foundation as well as local schools for the decade prior. All of brothers David and Gary Rubel’s children attended Laguna Beach campuses and, at the time the award was given, Gary and his wife, Belinda, also served as trustees on the SchoolPower board. Even though all of the Rubel children have now aged out of the Laguna school system, the jewelry store continues to support fundraising efforts for local children.
In addition to their commitment to supporting the local school system, the brothers continue to play an active role in the community through their local philanthropic efforts. They have been big proponents of a number of nonprofits in town, including everything from the Boys and Girls Club of Laguna Beach (whose galas David attends regularly) to the ever-important Friendship Shelter, as well as critical entities such as Mission Hospital. David also attends chamber events like Taste of Laguna, and his wife supports Laguna Food Pantry. Aside from donations that benefit the organizations directly, the Rubels have also donated jewelry from their shops to be included in auctions at charity events as well. However, over the course of the last year, the pandemic has altered their usual contributions a bit. “Due to COVID restrictions, we’ve supported these organizations with monetary donations over the past year, rather than attending in-person fundraising events,” Gary says.