Sergio Pages was a big man. With a 64 inch waist and a weight of almost 400 pounds, he was not only big in business but in stature as well. He’d built a successful multi-million dollar retail jewelry business in Tampa, Florida and was the face behind the brand. With TV commercials and radio ads made by him, it was hard not to know the big man with the big personality.
But when he decided to make a big, positive change for his health in 2003, he couldn’t have known the landslide of terrible events that would follow. Choosing to have gastric bypass surgery seemed like a dream come true for the middle-aged father of two. His 22 year marriage to his high school sweetheart was still going strong and he wanted to be physically able to travel with her and take her dancing.
A year and half after surgery he’d lost more than 200 pounds. To celebrate Sergio surprised his wife with a birthday trip to Italy. Neither had traveled abroad before. It was the dream of a lifetime.
Then all hell broke loose. Three days before they were to leave his wife told him it was over.
Three children and 25 years of marriage - gone. Growing up together, surviving on nothing and having everything to look forward to – it was now gone.
Devastated, Sergio’s emotions swung wildly from disbelief to extreme concern for his introverted, shy wife. He remembers: “We’d told every customer about our trip. When she told me she didn’t like me anymore and was leaving all I could think about was how she would survive. I was afraid for her. She’d been a very dependent woman up to that point. Even so she was an amazing mother and I wanted the best for her, even then.”
Sergio willingly gave her half of everything, without the slightest hesitation. Within three short months the divorce was final since neither party contested the terms.
Thirty days after the divorce was final Sergio’s son called with devastation in his voice. He told Sergio his jewelry store had been robbed. He was in disbelief as he walked into his store filled with holes in the roof, holes in the safes and all the cases smashed. Everything was gone, even the computer.
“I thought my store was dead,” recalls Sergio. “I had over $200,000 in customer repairs alone and had no computer system. I had kept my insurance costs low to be competitive and didn’t have adequate coverage. Looking back, it was a mistake. No words could describe my emotions. I couldn’t even say to myself, ‘Well, at least I still have my wife and kids.’”
Just when he thought it couldn’t get worse, Sergio was served with legal papers on Valentine’s Day for not paying spousal support. It was a mere 30 days after the robbery and 60 days after the divorce.
Furious didn’t begin to describe the emotions of the self-proclaimed “Cubarican” (half Cuban, half Puerto Rican) from the Bronx. Banking issues resulting from the robbery had put his payments behind, despite his post-dating a year’s worth of checks to his ex-wife.
“At that time I was $1.2 million in debt, I was sick about losing the precious jewelry of my customers who’d trusted me with their repairs and now my ex-wife was suing me for not paying support. I just kept slapping my bald head trying to figure out what I was going to do. Looking back now it was the best thing that could’ve happened to me though, because that was the day I stopped loving her.”
Pushed to his limit, and beyond, Sergio turned toward his faith. He felt he’d been gifted with success from an early age and attributed that gift to the Lord, Jesus Christ. Deep down he believed God had something else for him.
With his first insurance check hitting his mailbox the same day as the lawsuit, Sergio took the entire amount and used it to pay his ex wife. There was nothing left to reopen his store. He took what little he’d saved and paid his employees, and the next steps were unknown.
“My store was horrendous. It looked like a bomb had gone off. Every morning I’d sit in my hot tub and think about what the most important item to tackle that day was. If I thought about everything at once, I’d throw up. I actually got an irritated bowel from it all. Can you imagine an irritated bowel on top of this crisis?”
With the weight of the world on his shoulders, Sergio felt he had to get away, so he headed to his cabin in Alabama. Desperate and without a plan, he remembered an enormous boulder on his property that locals said was famous among local Indian tribes. The Creek Indians told of a legend where men would go to the boulder with fire water and the Bible, spend the night on the rock and wake up to find their treasure.
A man with little to nothing has nothing to lose, so Sergio borrowed a Bible from his neighbor, packed his Crown Royal and a case of beer and headed out to the legendary boulder. Reading from Psalms and drinking all night left him tired. Sleeping outside on a rock became no big deal.
Sergio woke the next morning to his cell phone ringing. His fiend Herb Hitzig, a jewelry wholesaler, was calling. He’d just met with 10 other wholesalers and they volunteered to front Sergio merchandise so he could reopen his store. Still standing on the legendary boulder, Sergio was speechless. He put the phone down and just stood there shaking his head.
From that point on it seemed as if God himself had a hand in putting the pieces of Sergio’s life back together. His customers remained loyal, stopping by to check on him and encourage him. The friend of his cousin called with information about a safe from a former store that was being discarded, and eventually the robbers were caught and linked to burglaries across 8 states totaling $65 million.
Even in the darkest times, Sergio knew there was more. He’d started with nothing, worked his way up with his dad by his side and built a 21 year business that rebounded even during bad economic times.
Today if you ask him how he’s doing he’s quick to tell you, “Everything is beautiful. Nikki Sinclair, a writer from Ottawa, Canada, wrote a book about the burglary called ‘Karma’s a Bitch: The Sergio Pages Story’ and the reviews are terrific. And, I’m in a good place with my family, friends and even my ex-wife now. My children are great and I’m proud of them. God is opening another door, and I will never lose because you can only lose when you give up and I never give up!”
Be sure to check out Sergio’s book on Amazon.