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Jeweler has multifaceted background

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by Melissa Wilson

SBJ Staff

Ex-wrestlers are getting a lot of attention these days for their post-wrestling careers as politicians, actors and trainers. But Manoli Savvenas, owner of Manoli's Jewelers, 2700 S. Glenstone, began his career as a jeweler and goldsmith before he started wrestling in Greece in his early 20s under the name Mike Pappas. Ten years before, to be exact.

"I learned the trade (jewelry) in Greece when I was 11 or 12 from a cousin. Then, I became a wrestler when I was 22. I retired from wrestling pretty young and went back to jewelry because I love it," Savvenas said.

Retired from the sport for 20 years now, Savvenas, who once wrestled now-Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura and counted Andre the Giant among his frequent houseguests, holds a light heavyweight championship title. The match in Kansas City with Ventura ended in a draw, according to Savvenas.

"It was a very good match, and I was impressed because I had never seen him before. He was really big and in good shape, but I was used to wrestling big guys," said the 5-foot-5 Savvenas.

Savvenas' wrestling career took him to Japan, Australia, Mexico and even Paducah, Ky., where he met his wife, Valerie, who is now a graduate gemologist of the Gemological Institute of America and Manoli's business partner.

"My business has changed tremendously since I started. With the changes in technology, jewelry making has changed so much, and that is why my wife came into the business. She is a graduate gemologist, and she is very good," Savvenas said.

After wrestling at the Shrine Mosque, Savvenas knew he wanted to retire in Springfield.

"At that time, I was wrestling and living in Kansas City, and I knew I wanted to retire to a smaller town. I could see the potential in Springfield," Savvenas said.

Savvenas retired from wrestling in 1979 and began Manoli's Goldcrafters, which operated out of 1913-D S. Stewart behind the Plaza Shopping Center. Savvenas mainly set diamonds and worked on castings and remounts for other jewelers.

The Savvenases began their retail business in 1985, and Manoli was then able to concentrate on handcrafting jewelry and Valerie began appraising and using her gemology skills to select jewelry for retail sale.

"I like working as a team with my wife. Now it's just Valerie and I in the store. A long time ago, I had 10 people working for me. I've taught a lot of people the jewelry business, and they're working for my competition now, which is fine. It's a free country[[In-content Ad]]

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