Linear Cherry stopped by the Treasure Trove Jewelers near Metro Center on Monday morning, as he does from time to time, to weigh his vanity against his wallet.
He’s been wanting a gold ring with a lion. “I’m a Leo,” he said.
He saw the “Retirement Sale” signs in the window of the G Street store and knew his time was running out.
“You better get that ring,” said David Broder, 67, who runs the store with his younger brother Marc.
Diamonds may be forever, but the same cannot be said for the jewelry business.
Tastes have changed since the brothers’ father opened the store in 1946. Back in the ’70s and ’80s, a lot of men would come in, like Cherry, looking for some bling for their fingers or their necks.
“Remember Mr. T?” David says of a time when men wore strands of gold.
“We used to sell as much men’s jewelry as women’s. That’s unheard of now,” he said.
“We used to have a lot of pimps and hustlers as customers,” said Marc, 62. “They were the nicest guys. But then you’d hear this guy got killed, or that guy. And eventually they all went away."
Over the course of a couple of hours, a handful of people straggled in, like a woman distraught that the diamond on the ring her husband slipped on her finger 50 years ago had fallen off, and bounced away. Another woman came to buy some yen at the currency exchange the brothers started. Marc plans to continue that part of the business at another jewelry store nearby, Bensons Jewelers.
“You used to have to take a number. We were like the Apple Store,” David said.
Now, fewer men hang strands of gold over their chest hair. The internet pulled people online. “I study people walking by,” David said. “No one looks in the window.”
Some will still come in to try things on. “They’ll say, ‘I’ll be back tomorrow.’ But people don’t come back tomorrow. They go on the internet and buy it,” said David.
By the end of May, the Broders’ store will be closed. The quiet demise of this small business, at 13th Street NW and G Street NW, comes as changing trends hit even the largest jewelers. Signet Jewelers, which runs Kay Jewelers, Zales and Jared the Galleria of Jewelry among others, announced that it plans to close 150 underperforming stores.
Some old customers have been stopping by to reminisce. “They’ll say, ‘I shopped for my engagement ring here back in 1995.’ I’m thinking, ‘And you haven’t been here since?' ” Marc said.
One thing he won’t miss are the customers who come in and complain that a stone is mounted askew. Marc will look and look, and see it’s on perfectly straight. But still, they’ll insist it’s crooked.
“In every store, you’re going to have really nice people and you’re going to have kooks. It’s just the wonderful life of retail,” Marc said.
From behind the glass counter, Marc said he’s seen romance fade a little. Nervous young men used to come in alone trying to decide on an engagement ring.
“A guy picking out a ring as a surprise is almost non-existent,” Marc said. “A lot of times guys will come in with a picture of a ring she’s picked out.”
Sometimes couples will come to pick up the ring they’d ordered. The man will get down on one knee and propose.
Marc thinks that’s sweet. But a little anticlimactic.