Colonial Jewelers Celebrates Anniversary with Renovation
By Gina Gallucci-White, Photography by Turner Photography Studio
When Sarah Hurwitz Robey joined Colonial Jewelers full time nearly two decades ago, she became the fourth generation of her family in the business. “I always tell people the number one reason I think I want to be here is my parents never pushed me for it,” she says. “They never said, ‘Oh, Sarah is going to run the business.’ It was always just what I wanted to do even from when I was very, very little.”
The store offers diamond, gold, silver and gemstone fashion jewelry, as well as custom design pieces in a wide range of prices. Some of their most popular items are engagement and wedding rings. “Sparkle doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive,” she says.
Next year, the Downtown Frederick staple will mark 75 years of business. Patty Hurwitz, vice President and third-generation owner, says the milestone is incredible. “We had no doubts that we would get here and we think we will get to 100 and beyond,” she says. “It just feels really good because we love Frederick. We could not be anywhere better. … We just feel really honored and pleased that the Frederick community has supported us all this time.”
The business’ roots extend back more than 100 years when Ben Hurwitz, a clockmaker who immigrated to the United States from Russia in 1920, opened Columbia Jewelers in Westminster. In 1948, the Frederick location was opened by Ben’s son, Will, and daughter-in-law, Marilyn, on Market Street. A few years later, the business moved to 9 W. Patrick St., where it stayed for nearly 50 years. In 1973, Will and Marilyn’s son, Jeff, and his wife Patty joined the business.
During this time frame, The Great Frederick Flood in 1976 caused millions of dollars of damage to Downtown in addition to stores migrating to strip malls as retail needs changed. Colonial Jewelers remained dedicated to Downtown. “We just could not see ourselves being out in a mall location,” Patty Hurwitz says. “…We just saw ourselves as a family mom and pop community business and we just didn’t see ourselves as being in that kind of impersonal environment. We loved being Downtown and just decided let’s just stay and weather the storm and I think we believed that it always would come back and it did with a vengeance.”
With a growing business, the Hurwitz family wanted more space and highly visible location. They renovated and moved to their current spot, a former bank building on the Square Corner, in 1998. Hurwitz Robey was in high school at the time and working at the store part time. She now serves as owner.
A year ago, Colonial Jewelers embarked on a full renovation of the space, including bringing in a jewelry shop designer to showcase the space as well as the jewelry itself. Everything from the paint to the floors to the layout changed. An expanded jeweler shop has glass as walls so patrons can watch the master jeweler create or alter pieces. All of the cases were handmade and all the contractors except the designer were local. The remodel also led to a rebranding with an updated logo. “A lot of things changed after the pandemic and it just felt like a time to have a rebirth, if you will,” Hurwitz Robey says.
During the remodel, the business closed for a week and didn’t have a showroom for a month. Customers entered through a back door while staff hurried back and forth from the vault to show different pieces.
A renovated upstairs includes a small history museum featuring relics of Colonial’s past, including a cash register, gift boxes, newspaper ads and appraisals. “Our history is so important to us and we feel like it is something that really differentiates us from anyone else selling jewelry in the area,” Hurwitz Robey says. “It is our longevity in Frederick. For me, being the fourth generation, all the people who came before are why we are here today. I absolutely love my career and I love this business and all of our customers and I am grateful every day that I get to do it, and I would not be able to do that without my grandparents and my parents and all the hard work they put in. All of them have such unbelievable work ethic and care for customers. It feels really appropriate to honor them in that way.”
All three Hurwitzes have stories of customers sharing what different generations in their family bought from the store. “People will say, ‘Your grandfather let me do the $1-a-week plan for my engagement ring 50 years ago,’” says Hurwitz Robey.
“It really is a different experience to come to our store than to go to other jewelry stores or other stores in general,” she adds. “We are a welcoming store and we really just put the customer first and always have.”
“It is awesome that people have faith in us,” says Jeff Hurwitz, president. “They know we are going to take care of their family and continue a tradition.”
Kara Norman, executive director of the Downtown Frederick Partnership, says the anniversary is an incredible milestone. “Many of us purchase jewelry for important moments in our lives, so it is really cool that tradition has carried through multiple generations of their family and also is carrying through multiple generations of the community that they are serving,” she says.