Downtown Store: A Jewel Of An Idea

September 13, 1994|By Jay Hancock | Jay Hancock,Sun Staff Writer

Dahne & Weinstein's jewelry store near the foot of Calvert Street was a Baltimore fixture, hailing from another era. And it looked it.

Heavy curtains blocked the daylight. The selling room was close and stuffy. A grandfather clock stood in the corner. And the goods under glass often had five- and six-figure price tags, aimed at rich clients who became less numerous downtown with time.

Like many old downtown stores, Dahne & Weinstein closed. The going-out-of-business sale was three months ago. The plush-lined cases went dark June 30.

Unlike most of those stores, this one reopened. Yesterday was the start of business for Parker & Royal jewelers. Same 1,500-square-foot location. Same owners. New name, look and merchandise.

Parker & Royal is an effort by Dahne & Weinstein's owners to appeal to more shoppers downtown.

Gone are the $150,000 necklaces. Replacing them are silver-plate pizza cutters, small leather briefcases, silver duck-head bottle corks and other less-than-$100 gifts. And there are more $500 earrings, $1,000 bracelets and $2,000 rings than formerly. "Affordable quality" is the slogan.

"We found that we still did some business here, but we were missing a whole bunch of people," said Stephen A. Weinstein, head of Royal Jewelers Supply Co. Inc., the parent company.

Mr. Weinstein continues to operate his pricey, exclusive Dahne & Weinstein jewelry store and a gift shop in Baltimore County, north of the city. Many of his traditional, wealthy clients live in the area.

But for the new downtown store, "the emphasis is on everyday jewelry," said Drew Parker, vice president. "Before, people thought you couldn't come in and spend $100, $200."

Parker & Royal is aimed at stockbrokers and secretaries, and other younger, lunchbag workers at other downtown employers -- not just the board room-and-chauffeur set.

The dark curtains and grandfather clock are gone. A back wall has been knocked out, yielding space. Cut flowers stand in a vase. Visitors are still buzzed through the door, a security precaution. But the young man on the sidewalk with a Parker & Royal sandwich board yesterday wasn't an ad format the old store would have embraced.

The store, started by Mr. Weinstein's father and mother in 1939, had been profitable, Mr. Weinstein said. Royal Jewelers owns the building, at 31 S. Calvert St., and still leases upstairs quarters to jewelers and watchmakers.

Like other sellers of luxury goods, Dahne & Weinstein was hurt by the slow economy of recent years. But "we really didn't lose much money," Mr. Weinstein said. "We held our own."

The company expects more than $5 million in sales this year, an increase from 1993, Mr. Weinstein said. Now he is contemplating expansion, adding to his three stores.

It depends partly on Parker & Royal. The store has downtown competitors.

But Mr. Weinstein and Mr. Parker like their location -- two blocks from the harborfront. And they believe there's life yet in streetfront stores in the city's center.

"There's plenty of business downtown," Mr. Weinstein said. "It's the failure of the merchants to want to be here."

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