Washington Jewelers celebrates 50 yearsPublished 9:02pm Wednesday, November 7, 2012
When Washington Jewelers recently celebrated their 50 years in business, owners Jimmy and Elvira Fortescue invited absolutely everyone to celebrate with them.
That list included a few homeless people who employees personally invited.
The celebration included hot dogs and the Fortescues encouraged those down on their luck to come for the free meal. Store manager Crystal Taylor said that is just how things are done at Washington Jewelers.
“He (Jimmy Fortescue) treats everyone the same way,” Taylor said. “He treats them like family. He doesn’t know a stranger.”
The Fortescues started the company on October 25, 1962. Jimmy said his reasons for starting the business were simple.
“I was poor and had to go to work,” he said laughing. “I just always wanted to get into business.”
The store has always been located at 183 West Main Street, but it was once a variety store and half its current size.
The store had two jewelry cases. Then Jimmy decided he ought to specialize in something and jewelry would be it.
Today, the full-service jewelry store has a fulltime jeweler on the premises and three fulltime diamontologists. Washington Jewelers is also a licensed gold buyer.
“We’re right where we want to be,” Jimmy said.
A lot has changed in the jewelry business since Washington Jewelers first opened its doors. Jimmy said men were the ones who picked out engagement rings. These days, women have a say.
He has watched white gold, silver and platinum gain popularity and the cost of gold skyrocket.
“That’s been the biggest change. Gold was $35 an ounce and it’s jumped to $1,700 an ounce,” Jimmy said.
The Fortescues credit the success of their business to generations of loyal customers. They have watched families grow with each engagement ring, anniversary present and christening gift they sold.
Taylor said the company is very, very family-oriented.
“I’ve been here 14 years,” she said. “He’s the greatest boss I’ve ever had.”
Jimmy credits his customers with helping him be the boss he wants to be.
“One of our goals was to remain closed on Sundays so our employees could attend church and be with their families,” he said. “We thank our customers again for making this possible.”