Honoring Janis Krantz, November 24th, 1948- April 30th, 2022
By John Grossi
They say it takes one to know one. Janis Krantz certainly knew a lot about jewelry, maybe it came naturally. For she was a jewel. A diamond in the rough. A colorful gemstone. A magnificent human being who shined brighter than anything she could sell.
Like the perfect piece of jewelry, she was well put-together, creative, artistic, colorful, meaningful, and the perfect complement, no matter the environment.
Janis owned J&L Jewelry, but she meant so much more to the Long Beach community. After meeting her through this magazine, I had the pleasure of calling Janis Krantz one of my close friends… A distinction only about 8,000 other people in Long Beach can make. Lol. Janis knew EVERYONE.
As her son Josh put it, “My biggest memory of my mom as a kid was going shopping with her and having every person walking by say hi to her. Everyone knew her name everywhere we went.”
Her daughter Lauren put it a little more bluntly. “When we were kids, we hated going places with her! It was never just a 15-minute errand… it became a 3-hour tour. She would never stop talking— to everyone she saw!”
As Josh and Lauren grew older, however, they better began to understand why everyone was so eager to talk with their mom each time they saw her. “She was a walking saint,” described Josh.
“Anytime you talked to her, you immediately felt better afterward,” echoed Lauren.
Roughly two weeks after Janis passed away, I sat in the back of her shop with Josh and Lauren, the J and L for whom J&L Jewelry was named, and listened to them piece together the amazing life of their mom.
As I listened for hours, I also watched the shop in action. Every few minutes, a customer walked in— long-time customers known personally to each of the employees. Periodically, one of the salespersons would chime in with a story about Janis as loyal customers paid their respects. Multiple deliveries arrived, bearing beautiful floral displays for the family. Tears, laughter, stories, community, and oh yeah, jewelry purchases.
Although the subject of conversation was different, and much, much sadder than usual, the shop’s atmosphere remained familiar. This community Janis created. A family, not a business. An open home where friends and neighbors could walk to and gather. Perhaps feeling a bit off, sad, or lonely upon arrival, but leaving in a cheerier, even sparkly mood.
“This shop was a ministry for her,” said Lauren. “She helped and served people through the shop. Her mission statement had nothing to do with money, it was amazing. The mission statement for her shop was ‘helping people through jewelry.’”
I had sat in J&L many times over the past 10 years for a few minutes at a time…always just assuming I was there at a particularly busy time. This time, sitting there for hours, I witnessed that same interaction over and over— always a steady stream of customers, always a personal interaction. A thousand special moments a day. I honestly felt like I was watching the live performance of a Hallmark movie.
Janis was this amazing, caring, loving, angelic human being who created the most loving local community around her, through her shop, the organizations she supported, the activities she undertook, and her spoken word. J&L Jewelry shop is truly the blueprint for how great a local business can be. As I sat there, I realized that the theme for this issue…the complex question we needed to pose, was “How do you live more local?” The simple answer is, you live like Janis.
The Local Woman
Janis grew up in Los Altos on Garford Street and ended up living her whole adult life a few streets over on Charlemagne. As her family jokes, she spent her whole life in a two-mile radius. She attended Our Lady of Refuge School K-8 and then St. Anthony for High School. In high school, she was a well-known artistic soul. She loved to paint and draw; collect rocks, stones and gems… anything she could find. She made homemade jewelry out of corks in high school, embedding anything shiny that she could scrounge together, and then draw designs such as sunflowers on top.
After high school, Janis went to work in the jewelry section of the Cal Department Store on Carson Street, following them when they opened up a Cal Jewelry store on Spring Street and Palo Verde. She was a star everywhere she went. Customers were drawn to her personality as well as her designs. She had a knack for jewelry design that transcended the material piece. Her ability to incorporate the sentimental into a person’s jewelry was a God-given gift.
“She could read a room,” younger sister Jacki Stanfield said. “She knew exactly how to design someone’s jewelry just from talking to them. Just like she always knew what to say at the right time. She could really read people.”
In 1991, Janis opened her own jewelry store, J&L Jewelry at the traffic circle in Long Beach, which was an immediate success. Customers and friends followed her wherever she went. In fact, there was never much distinction between a customer and a friend. As Janis’ family noticed over the years… there was something very peculiar and telling about Janis’ personality. Even people who met her only once would refer to her as a friend.
One of Janis’ best friends, Marlene Temple, a friend of 50 years, met her in that same way. She was a long-term and loyal customer. Janis would eventually introduce Marlene to her husband Don Temple, one of many matchmaking accounts in the life of Janis Krantz. Or as Don Temple would call it…Janis’ [engagement ring] marketing scheme.
Janis, her husband Mike, and Don and Marlene Temple would get together monthly if not more often for years. After Don passed (in 2013), Janis would accompany Marlene almost weekly to anything and everything local, all through the last decade of her life.
Janis, Marlene, and friends had all their fun LOCALLY. Weekly galas giving back to non-profits; dinner at 555 East restaurant—where they were known as the “Corn Girls” ever since Janis protested to the chef that they put their Cream of Corn BACK on the menu; and attending every show and play in town they could see! The International Theatre, Musical Theatre West, Long Beach Playhouse, and more. Janis not only belonged to every organization in Long Beach, she enjoyed and made friends with people at every organization in Long Beach.
Her kids constantly joked with their mom when they were children because they didn’t think her neck had the ability to nod side-to-side (like one might do to notion the word “no”). It only seemed able to nod up and down, in a “yes” kind of way. If any non-profit, small business or local school asked anything of her, the answer was always, “yes.”
“She gave to every elementary school, every sports team, every non-profit in town… and she gave generously of what she had,” her daughter Lauren describes, which was not a lot of money. “She gave her products generously… she would give her jewelry to fundraisers and say ‘Sell what you can, keep the profits, and then give back what you don’t sell.’” The other thing she gave a lot of was time. She would always give her time.
She was the unofficial photographer of Long Beach, attending event after event with her camera and documenting everyone and everything, except of course, herself. But her time was not just reserved for local non-profits… it was for everyone. She went to every birthday party, gathering, and event for anyone she knew and always brought her camera. The very next day, she would gift a photo album of the event.
But it didn’t stop with photos…she would read the room and give her time to anyone. She was a counselor, friend, and, yes, taskmaster to everyone she knew.
“Time is extremely valuable when you own your own business, yet she somehow had time for everyone,” said her daughter Lauren. People would walk into the shop with problems or just “a look on their face” and she would talk to them as long as needed, acting as counselor. She would take young couples under her wing and grill them about getting married as if she was their mother. Then she would give them an incredible price on their wedding ring because she knew young couples often didn’t have much money… she didn’t want to make money off their wedding, she wanted to be their jeweler for life.”
One of Janis’s original customers in 1991 was an older gentleman named Glenn who would regularly buy jewelry for his wife. When she [his wife] fell ill, he would stop by the shop and buy something on his way to the hospital. Then she passed away. When Glenn stopped by a few months later to tell Janis the sad news, she noticed he just didn’t look the same. So Janis, reading the room, made a suggestion. How about he come in the next Friday just to have lunch and a visit? Glenn agreed, and thus begun a tradition… for every Friday from then on. Not too long after, a similar situation came about with a lady named Ellen. Her husband had passed, and she too was feeling lonely. After that, it became Janis, Glenn, and Ellen visiting every Friday.
Guess what… it never stopped.
Many customers over the decades became familiar with Friday Lunches at J&L Jewelry. Every Friday from 1994 until the pandemic, Janis and her family provided a catered lunch for anyone and everyone who stopped by. There was no catch, and everyone was welcome. Anyone who wanted to stop by and visit and enjoy the company of others was welcome to do so. It exemplified another amazing quality in Janis. Not just her kindness but her consistent kindness and her consistent generosity.
“My mom was the one who would buy coffee for the person behind her in the Starbucks line… but not like just one time. Literally every time. Every time she went anywhere, she’d buy something for someone and she’d tip everyone. Some of her best friends were the valet parkers at 555 and she’d tip them every single time she went, so generously,” said Lauren.
Long Beach’s Patron Saint
In 1998, a local 8-year-old girl named Shannon got E. coli from eating a hamburger. She went into multi-organ shut down and was gravely ill. But she kept fighting. When Janis found out about this girl, she went to visit her in the hospital. Shannon was nonverbal, cortically blind, and completely dependent on care. Janis came back to visit with her the next Monday and the Monday after that… every Monday from 1998 until the week Janis passed away in 2022. She provided comfort to the girl and for her mother with whom she became great friends. There is even a painting of Shannon protected by angels that Janis painted in 1998, which provides Shannon comfort to this day. For friends, family, and even people she barely knew, Janis could not stop going out of her way to help people.
“One thing I never quite understood my whole life is why she was always running errands for other people,” laughed son Josh. “Every day she was shopping for someone, or taking something somewhere for someone else. She would just take on these constant tasks for anyone who needed anything.”
Out of the many organizations for which she volunteered, including the Long Beach Executive Club, Steel Magnolias, CAMEO, DAG, and more… nowhere did Janis spend more time than her church, Our Lady of Refuge. She was deeply faithful and took great pride in the fact that her parents had helped to found the church. She leaned on the church community and it leaned on her. She would donate money, time, or jewelry at the drop of a hat and never missed a mass.
When she was diagnosed with cancer, daughter Lauren started a group on Facebook known as “Janis’ Prayer Warriors” where Janis could not only update friends and family about her condition but also receive prayers and well wishes from over 1,000 close friends. She took great pride in hearing that people were praying or going back to church for the first time in years just to pray for her. “Prayer Warriors” meant everything.
Live Like Janis
Janis is survived by her loving husband, Mike Krantz, who supported Janis in everything she did. He was her rock and took care of her at home through health and sickness to the end. Her son and daughter, Josh and Lauren, are carrying on their mother’s wishes to take over the shop and honor everything their mother taught them through her actions.
Janis had thousands of friends and hundreds she considered family. All have been touched by her immediate kindness, generosity, and authentic personality. In an effort to immortalize the teachings of Janis, the family has created the website: livelikejanis.com.
If you, like me, are looking at ways to not only live a more local life, but also to be a better person… here are a few lessons to keep in mind from the life of Janis Krantz:
1) If someone asks for help, always say yes
2) If you can’t give money, there is always something you can give
3) Use your individual and unique talent to help others
4) Read the room and go with your gut
5) Really listen to people
6) Go to the local theatre!
7) Prioritize human interaction
8) Treat everyone like a friend
9) Tip those who make you happy
10) Help the people immediately around you first, then go look for others to help
While she’s no longer with us here on earth, if all those in this community who have been touched by Janis over the last 74 years honor her through our actions… much like a diamond, Janis’ spirit will live forever, right here in Long Beach.