Prince Jewelry sees future gem in Hotel Junker

February 05, 1992|By Edward Gunts

The owners of Prince Jewelry Co. of Baltimore, a 46-year-old jewelry manufacturer and retailer at 2 N. Liberty St., have acquired the former Hotel Junker at 20-22 E. Fayette St. and plan to open a store there by April.

Gary Prince, a co-owner, said the company will keep its Liberty Street retail operation but has wanted to open a second shop on the east side of Charles Street. He said he and his brother, Tom, also are considering moving Prince's headquarters to the second level of the seven-story hotel building.

Prince Realty Co., an affiliate of Prince Jewelry, bought the former hotel for $1.08 million from Home Federal Savings Bank of Hagerstown, which foreclosed on the previous owners last year.

"We bought the building because we're committed to staying in Baltimore," Mr. Prince said. "You always hear about all the people who are moving out of the city, but you never here about the people who are staying."

Mr. Prince said that he and his brother liked the Fayette Street shop location, formerly the Charles Center branch of Vermont Savings Association, because "we're missing out on a significant market in that part of the city." Unlike the original store, which has items priced from $50 to $20,000, the new shop will feature items costing $50 to $450, easier for office workers to afford.

The Hotel Junker, which was a favorite of Baltimore reporters in the early part of the century, was one of the first downtown buildings to be built after the 1904 fire that destroyed much of downtown Baltimore. Several years ago, it was converted to offices by a group headed by Martin P. Azola, who later filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Prince was founded in 1946 as a jewelry manufacturer on the fifth floor of 108 W. Fayette St. It later moved to Liberty Street and expanded to become a retail operation in 1976.

Mr. Prince said that his is one of the last companies in Baltimore that makes jewelry as well as sells it and that the dual operation has helped it survive.

"We're bucking the trend. We're growing, not contracting," he said.

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