All photos provided by and property of Tom Cook Jeweler
At the age of 16, Vaclav Jule Pekor left his birthplace of Praque, Bohemia, Kingdom of Austria. He immigrated to the United States and settled in Columbus, GA where his brother was the owner of the Pekor Iron Works. He was an apprentice at two jewelry stores, sweeping floors and working his way up before buying the stock of another jewelry store and founded Pekor Jewelry Company in 1889 (featured image). VJ Pekor was also a landlord and collected weekly rent. He received his citizenship in 1892 and later married in 1897 having three daughters – one being Vera Pekor.
Tom Cook Jeweler of Daytona Beach Grew from Humble beginnings in Georgia
Tom Cook, Sr. was at Fort Benning in Columbus, GA in the army where he met and married Vera Pekor in 1924. The Pekor Jewelry Company was organized in 1926 in Macon, Georgia where Tom Cook, Sr. was sent to open up a store for his father-in-law. On January 1, 1931, Tom Cook, Sr. bought the business and opened under the name of Pekor-Cook Jewelry Company. That July, 1931 VJ Pekor died from a sudden heart attack. Tom Cook, Sr. ran the Macon store until being called to active military duty in October 1940.
Working his way up to Colonel, he was assigned to command of the Military Police Detachment at Camp Wheeler. His military pay supplemented the income from the jewelry store to keep it up and running while he was away.
Once returning from active duty, Tom Cook, Sr. ran a storewide liquidation sale and reopened under the name of Tom Cook Jeweler. Vera Pekor Cook became ill and was told to move to a warmer climate. They liked Daytona Beach since they had vacationed here in the past. There was a jewelry store for sale on Beach Street in Downtown Daytona Beach and the next chapter of Tom Cook Jeweler’s history began!
Tom Cook Jeweler became Incorporated in 1947 and the Macon store stayed open being run by a manager while the family moved to Daytona Beach. However, the Macon store was closed in early 1950. A second store was opened in Ormond Beach but lasted only a year because the customers always wanted to see Tom Cook himself – and he was always at the other store!
Tom Cook, Jr. entered into the family business in 1947 in Daytona Beach. He was enrolled in the University of Georgia but left to follow in the family business at the newly established Tom Cook Jeweler.
While working in the jewelry store, he met Gloria Houston. They were married in 1952. Like his father, he was also in the U.S. Army and was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, where Victoria Cook, their daughter, was born in 1953. They moved back to Daytona Beach in 1954 and Tom Cook, Jr. continued to work in the store until 1995 when he developed colon cancer.
Sheryl Cook was born in 1958 in Daytona Beach. Both Vicki and Sheryl grew up in the business. Vicki came to work in 1975 after graduating from Agnes Scott College in Decatur, GA. Sheryl came to work in 1980 after also graduating from Agnes Scott College.
Vicki was involved in sales and jewelry design. She got her Registered Jeweler title from the American Gem Society. One day, Vicki came into the store on her day off to sell a diamond tennis bracelet that had been special ordered. Tom Cook, Sr. only commented on the fact that she dared show up in pants and not a dress! However, Tom Cook, Jr. was much more excited about his daughter’s first large sale.
When Sheryl came into the business, she immediately started to innovate – she got rid of the cash register and introduced an inventory point of sale system. Their dad hated it and wanted his cigar box back!
In 1995, when Tom Cook, Jr. retired, Sheryl took over as President and Vicki became Secretary / Treasurer. Sheryl continues to be the “detail” person.
In 2005, Vicki’s daughter Ashley Leonhardt Lee came into the store after graduating from the University of Florida with a BA in Advertising and also graduated from the GIA school in Carlsbad, CA where she got her Graduate Gemology degree. Ashley took the store’s marketing to a new level. She also became the primary diamond buyer. She is Vice-President of Sales and Marketing.
Ashley has expanded the digital footprint by creating the website and other digital assets, including a social media presence – readying the store for the next generations of customers.
Honesty, integrity and extraordinary customer service have been the foundation of Tom Cook Jeweler throughout all 5 generations. Giving back to the community has always been a vital commitment for the family. Sheryl, Vicki and Ashley have never been made to feel obliged to carry on the family business – it is in their hearts.
Tom Cook Jeweler has continued to find new and exciting watch and jewelry lines for their customers. They strive to bring the newest and best jewelry to their loyal customers at affordable prices, while always taking pride in offering extraordinary customer service. Additionally, they have really extended their Custom Jewelry department to design and fashion whatever a customer would like.
Ashley will continue to carry on the wonderful examples and practices learned from the previous generations. They continue to employ an extraordinary staff that works together to keep the Tom Cook Jeweler legacy alive while helping it grow for the 6th generation!
150 South Beach Street, Daytona Beach 32114
Monday – Friday: 9:30am – 5:30pm; Saturday: Closed; Sunday : Closed