A few days into the Treasure Trove’s going-out-of-business sale, the framed photo of Jerry Broder was quietly taken down from the wall.
The late founder of the jewelry store at 13th and G streets NW didn’t need to see this, his sons David and Marc agreed.
Where once the decor at the Treasure Trove had been understated — walls of neutral gray, large posters of wristwatches — now there were garish signs in fluorescent colors proclaiming “Everything On Sale.” Prices were slashed, and some sort of contest was going on to entice customers into the store.
Jerry Broder opened the Treasure Trove in 1946. He died in 2008. The store will die in 2019.
I wrote about the Treasure Trove in 2012 — about how the web was chipping away at its sales — and perhaps the wonder is that the store survived an additional seven years. But the end really is nigh.
“The rent went up, up, up,” said Marc, 62.
Sales over the last few years went down, down, down.
“The government shutdown killed our Christmas business,” Marc said.
Then the threat of another government shutdown killed their Valentine’s Day business.
But, really, it’s been a longer slide. Tastes have changed and so have shopping habits.
“Young people today don’t want jewelry. They want experiences,” said David, 68. “Trips, restaurants.”
And the web? It was galling when a person would walk in with a diamond they’d purchased sight unseen online and compare it with the Treasure Trove’s engagement rings.
“I just wanted to see if I got a good deal,” they’d say before leaving.
The Treasure Trove will close May 31. David said he may drive for Uber or Lyft. Marc is going to move to Bensons Jewelers, a block away on F Street. He’s been running a foreign currency exchange business that has been a good earner.
“We gave people a lot of memories over the years,” Marc said. “It’s a little sad.”
D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser wants the Circulator bus to be free. The D.C. Council does not. But what about a third option: Asking riders for a donation.
Got a handful of change tinkling annoyingly in your pocket? Drop it in the fare box. Grateful that you were able to get from Georgetown to Union Station in a fashion that’s quicker than walking and cheaper than a cab? Slide in a fiver. Don’t have a dollar or feel that taking public transportation redounds to the good of society and you’re actually doing the rest of us a favor? Don’t give anything.
When I heard this suggestion the other day — a sort of pay-what-you-will for the Circulator — I thought of another free institution in town that is not above asking for a donation: the Smithsonian Institution.
Some of Smithsonian’s museums have boxes near information desks encouraging visitors to give. Of course, you won’t be turned away if you don’t.
The Smithsonian’s Linda St. Thomas told me the National Museum of Natural History receives the most in donations, $96,000 between Oct. 1 and April 30. The donation boxes near the Saturn V rockets at the National Air and Space Museum garnered $80,000 in that time period.
The approximate total for the fiscal year to date is $251,000.
All of this is a fraction of what it costs to run the Smithsonian’s museums and galleries, but it is a way to allow visitors to feel connected. And, hey, a quarter-million dollars!
“It’s an interesting concept,” said John Falcicchio, the mayor’s chief of staff. “I do ride Circulator. I don’t mind paying the dollar if it helps keep it free for someone else.”
I can see a few problems with making the Circulator’s fares voluntary. There’s doubtless a cost associated with maintaining/securing a box full of cash. Allowing people to donate with a wipe of their SmarTrip card could be complicated. The contributions wouldn’t cover the cost of running the service, though fares don’t cover the entire cost now anyway.
Falcicchio wouldn’t rule out the notion, but said the city doesn’t have anything like this currently.
The council makes its final vote on Tuesday. Even if they vote no on the issue, the Circulator will remain free through Oct. 1.
For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/john-kelly.