Family-owned jewelers moves into dream space

Novembe 8, 2015

From left to right: Two of the three Fleisher’s Jewelers partners, Luis Pena and Fred Fleisher. Photo courtesy Rebecca Bennett.

BY REBECCA BENNETT — Along with the revitalization happening in the City of Hyattsville came the rebirth of a family legacy. After 62 years in business, Fleisher’s Jewelers liquidated its inventory and closed its doors on Christmas Eve 2012 only to emerge nearly three years later amid a business shuffle in Historic Hyattsville.

Fred Fleisher’s father, William Fleisher, opened the store in 1949, he said. Its original location was in Mount Rainier, but it moved into a larger space in 1962 next to what was then the Giant on Queens Chapel Road.  Fleisher said he first started working in his father’s store in 1976 and eventually went on to run it.

“I’ve sold a kid his school ring [in junior high], his first ring for his girlfriend, their engagement ring, their anniversary ring and then they bring in their kids …” Fleisher said.

William Fleisher retired from the store in 1999 and he passed away on July 3, 2014.

Fleisher and partner Luis Pena said they left their previous space in Chillum because of increasing rent and other economic reasons. Fleisher said he did everything to keep the store afloat.

At first, they had no intention of ever reopening the store, Fleisher said. Then a couple of summers ago, they got this wild idea to open a boardwalk restaurant in Ocean City, Md. The idea became a smaller jewelry store with a cafe in the back: sandwiches and diamonds.

“I was like, ‘no, this is ridiculous,’” Pena said. “Then the idea started getting better and better.”

They and their third partner, appraiser Gary Lester, tried to find a place to reopen in the local area, but had little luck on their budget, Fleisher said. They eventually gave up on the idea of the cafe, he said.

After looking at a few places in College Park, Riverdale and the City of Hyattsville, a nearby building owner mentioned that space in the Professional Building at 5200 Baltimore Avenue might be coming available.

“We had been coveting this place since before we closed the store,” Fleisher said.

“We’d be eating across the street [at Franklin’s], staring in here …” Pena said. “But it was just a pipe dream.”

According to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, the Professional Building was built in 1905 as the First National Bank of Hyattsville. At one time, it housed the police department, courthouse and jail. Over the years, it served as home to business offices, commercial stores, and eventually a knitting store called A Tangled Skein.  The space was most recently home to Ballet, Tap, and All That Jazz, which has since moved to a space nearby.

At 1,200 square feet, their new space is roughly one third of their former Chillum space. “But, we can still do the major work we need to get done,” Pena said. It is a small price to pay for being on the ground floor of an area that’s being built up, he said.

Finally, everything was set to open the store. They moved into the Professional Building in August of this year and opened their doors in September.

Fleisher’s Jewelers not only sells jewelry, gifts and watches.  The partners said they do much more. They also carry Masonic insignia and regalia, change watch batteries and bands, and will engrave virtually any suitable item that fits in their engraving machine, which has included flasks, shotguns and card cases.

The store also offers an appraisal service, performing appraisals for the Archdiocese of Washington, the Drug Enforcement Agency and local police.

Future plans are to hold a “silver clinic” so that residents can have their silver repaired.

Inspired by the Hyattsville Arts Festival and the artwork found at Franklins, the partners decided to decorate their store’s walls with artwork for sale by local artists.

They also said they want to display pieces from local jewelry designers, too.  “We are an independent and … it’s hard,” Pena said. “We understand what that’s like, and we’ll give them a venue, because it’s the only way you’ll survive in a community.”

“We are trying to be a community-based store,” Fleisher said.