Capital Buzz: The glitter is back at Tiny Jewel Box

Tiny Jewel Box, the 81-year-old jewelry store on Connecticut Avenue, won an industry award for America’s coolest jewelry store, which gave The Buzz an excuse to call up owners Jim Rosenheim and his son, Matthew, to check in on business.

(We also discussed our mutual love for Syracuse University basketball. Matthew is an alumnus. The Buzz grew up there.)

“Our business has bounced back reasonably close to what it was like before the recession,” said Matthew, whose grandparents, Monte and Roz Rosenheim, started Tiny Jewel Box on G Street during the Great Depression. “We notice an uptick in people’s attitude.”

Matthew said that during the recession, business was off 25 to 30 percent at the Washington landmark. But the first half of 2011 was gangbusters.

“It was kind of a double-whammy,” said Matthew. “The people that were negatively impacted felt they couldn’t afford to shop along with the people who could, but didn’t want to. I had people who bought things who didn’t want to take the bag with them.”

What does this tell us about the Washington economy?

“We don’t always hit the peaks of the highs, but we always weather the lows better than most,” said Matthew.

The Buzz hears:

* Geoff Dawson — the man behind Buffalo Billiards and Rocket Bar — opens his Riot Act comedy club Aug. 11 in Penn Quarter.

* Restaurateur Bo Blair has delayed his opening of the Bethesda Jetties sandwich shop until after Labor Day.

* Ed Barrientos’s Brazen Careerist, the networking site for high-level Gen Yers, has tripled its workforce to 15 and signed 20 Fortune 500 clients.

The company, which moved from Wisconsin earlier this year, is set to release several new products this fall and is ramping up partnerships with major universities across the country.

* Arita Matini on June 24 opened a second location of Sweetleaf Cafe, the cafe she  started in McLean two years ago. The new store is on East Maple Avenue in Vienna. Matini graduated from Marymount University in 2009 with an interior design degree.

McAuliffe in China

Terry McAuliffe’s McLean-based GreenTech Automotive is in the news again, moving forward on his plans for a new electric car company.

This weekend, McAuliffe was in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, announcing a joint venture with the Chinese for U.S.-made auto components that will be exported to, and sold in, China. A 500-acre facility is being built in Ordos, where the autos will be finished.

GreenTech’s first manufacturing facility is in a former elevator factory in Horn Lake, Miss. That is where the MyCar, the all-electric two-seater that McAuliffe bought the rights to, will be built.  Engineers are completing a redesign of the MyCar for use on American roads. Another factory is under construction in Tunica, Miss.

McAuliffe says the joint venture will lead to 2,000 new American manufacturing jobs, building components for the cars for the Chinese market.

Travel journal

It’s early August, and The Buzz checked in with some local busi­ness­peo­ple regarding their summer travels.

This just in from Laurence E. Bensignor, senior vice president at Eagle Bank, who recently returned from two weeks in Italy with his wife, Fern.

“We did one week touring Budapest and Prague, walking the neighborhoods, visiting palaces and castles, cruising the Danube and working remotely on our now-announced acquisition of Alliance Bank,” Bensignor said in an e-mail. Then, he says, “a week laying on the beach in Sardinia, Italy, catching rays and reading novels. We ended with a couple of days in Rome, just walking around, shopping and eating gelato.

“They were a terrific two weeks that rejuvenated me for the second half of the year.”

Another Eagle banker, Vice Chairman Bob Pincus, stayed stateside. But he got lost on a mountain near his place in Sun Valley, Idaho, where he vacationed for a couple of weeks last month.

Pincus and his wife, Roxanne, were with close friends Ken and Nancy Malm. Ken is chief executive of Craftmark Homes, the largest privately-owned homebuilder in the region.

“We were up around 9,000, 10,000 feet,” said Pincus. “I couldn’t see the trail because snow was covering it. We looked for two hours. It was scary.”

Pincus, who goes every summer and winter to Sun Valley, said he was on the phone doing business between two and three hours a day.

The rest of the time was for hiking and biking.

Thomas Heath is a local business reporter and columnist, writing about entrepreneurs and various companies big and small in the Washington Metropolitan area. Previously, he wrote about the business of sports for The Post’s sports section for most of a decade.
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