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Eileen McClelland

Jim Rosenheim Is Working His 68th Christmas in a Row Because He Loves the Jewelry Business

‘I love the industry, I love the products and frankly, I love dealing with the public,’ he says.

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Jim Rosenheim Is Working His 68th Christmas in a Row Because He Loves the Jewelry Business
Jim Rosenheim
Tiny Jewel Box, Washington, DC

JIM ROSENHEIM TURNED 80 this year, which will also mark the 68th Christmas he’s worked in a row. He made his first sale, a $15 ring, at the age of 6 in 1948.

Rosenheim has been succeeded by his son, Matthew, as CEO. But as a director, he’s still working an average of 30 to 35 hours every week and his clients contact him directly, as they always did.

“I love the industry, I love the products and frankly, I love dealing with the public. I love the opportunity to be creative and to build a business,” he says. “I don’t work because I have to work. I love what I do.”

In 1968, post-college, he decided to join the family business, until things “got better” in his chosen career field, which was not jewelry. “I came and never left,” says Rosenheim, who then picked up a GIA graduate gemologist degree.

When his parents, Roz and Monte, opened and named the business, it truly was tiny at just 100 square feet. When Jim bought them out they had expanded to 1,500 square feet. Soon after, he purchased the six-story building next door, bringing the space to 12,500 square feet. That move triggered one of many arguments he had with his dad, who’d grown up in a wealthy family that lost that wealth during the Great Depression.

Jim had bought the space and hired architects, interior designers and a contractor, who put a construction fence around the space with a sign, all before his dad even knew of his plans. “He admonished me, said I was risking everything, risking financial security.” But his parents lived to see the building open and the business booming.

In 2015, Tiny Jewel Box debuted another new space spanning the entire historic corner of Connecticut Avenue and M Street NW, bringing the total square footage to just shy of 30,000 over three buildings and rendering the name more ironic than ever. “I get teased about it all the time,” Rosenheim says. “That it’s the not so tiny jewel box.”

During the expansion, Rosenheim hired three research firms to explore whether Tiny Jewel Box needed a new name, but it turned out that people loved the name. “Who knew?” Rosenheim says. He left well enough alone.

Rosenheim cites career highlights that include receiving the GEM Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2017 and the induction into the Retail Jewelers Hall of Fame. “Those are watershed moments for me,” he says. “They were in the presence of dozens, if not hundreds of friends and colleagues in the business. But today, some of the things I cherish most are seeing how my son has evolved in the industry, how he has taken positions on the JA Board of Directors or the GEM Awards and seeing him evolving on his own two feet, becoming an important person in the industry himself. I’m a proud parent.”

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Online Only: Q&A with Jim Rosenheim

Q. Was the transition to Matthew’s leadership easier than the transition of ownership from your parents to you?

A. “Every big decision made over the years, I’ve been involved in it with Matthew. I had a lot more experience. I was mentoring him but as he has spent decades in the business, and has had all the experiences and been instrumental in expansion and now running everything, it has been a gradual and successful transition. Two heads are better than one. We have an exceptionally fine senior management team that has been with me 20 years or more. They not only understand the business but they understand Tiny Jewel Box.

Q. What stands out for you about celebrity clients?

A. I’ve worked with celebrities pretty much my entire life. I remember being with Sammy Davis Junior, Barbara Streisand. Laura Bush was a regular devotee; we did lots of work for President Bush and his cabinet officers. Madeline Albright had been a friend of my mother’s and she was a regular face in the crowd long before she was secretary of state. I find that everybody, whether they are celebrities or not, people are people. When you’re across the counter from them, that 2 feet between you and whoever you’re dealing with that is where the experience happens, positive or negative.

Q. How do you balance classy with intimidating? Customer reviews consistently describe the store as classy but not snobby.

A. “Honestly it’s one of the things I am most proud of about the store. We have retained the same DNA that my parents had at 1327 and a half G Street. My employees do not work on commission. Their job first and foremost is to make sure anybody who walks through the front door of the store has a good experience. They’re not pushing people to make decisions that they’re not uncomfortable with, it’s not their personal agenda. They’re not trying to stretch their budgets. Commission based sales are the rule not the exception and you feel put upon, you feel pushed. We try at all costs to avoid that kind of experience and we make it clear to the clients themselves, your needs are what’s important to us. We just want you to find what it is that will suit your needs. And I don’t live in an ivory tower. I spend more time on the floor than I do in my office. I enjoy that interfacing with our clients and our staff, supporting their needs, their agendas.

Q. Did you ever or do you now have retirement plans?

A. I have no retirement plans. I don’t work because I have to work. I love what I do. I love the people I work with and I love to enhance the client experience. I do the trade shows. I lead the charge on the jewelry product and I was involved, along with my in-house designer in designing the Rosalyn bridal collection, engagement rings that are unique and our own.

Eileen McClelland is the Managing Editor of INSTORE. She believes that every jewelry store has the power of cool within them.

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