QUINCY — What may be the last remaining piece of the long-ago Shopperstown USA version of Quincy Square is still in place and still selling the same kind of merchandise.
That’s Rogers Jewelry, run these days by Jeff Bertman and his parents, Mark and Isobel, who have been putting diamonds on fingers since 1960. The store, which opened 20 years before that, is the oldest retailer in Quincy Center.
Jeff Bertman isn’t sure exactly when Rogers Jewelry opened. He has an old, crumbling copy of The Patriot Ledger from just before Christmas 1943 – a customer gave it to him – that contains a full-page ad for the store.
At the Quincy Historical Society’s quarters a couple of blocks away, annual Quincy directories list Rogers Jewelry at its current address, 1402 Hancock St., starting in 1940.
Its continued survival makes Rogers Jewelry stand alone among the many shops, big and small, that lined Hancock Street in the middle of last century.
Ed Fitzgerald, executive director of the Quincy Historical Society, said the stores that filled Quincy Center in the 1950s and 1960s gave the city’s downtown its identity.
“The stores were very integral to the identity (of the center),” Fitzgerald said. ”(The stores) were what kind of drove life in the center … unlike today, when restaurants are really kind of driving it.”
Bertman sees Quincy Center much the same way.
“We went from being a complementary mix to we’ve become a destination,” he said.
What he means is that people used to come to Quincy Center to shop around at a bunch of different boutiques and department and grocery stores there. Now they come for a specific purpose – to eat or to buy something in particular.
But that’s not bad, Bertman said. His business has continued to grow, albeit slowly, and he sees it ramping up as more people move into the square. Hundreds of apartments and condominiums have been built in recent years, and plans for hundreds more have been approved. The construction is going to generate more foot traffic, particularly at night, given how many restaurants are opening, Bertman said.
“I do think that evening shopping will come back as Restaurant Town, USA, takes over,” he said. “And that’s very positive.”
Bertman, who has been working at Rogers Jewelry since 1988, is quick and efficient, but he’s also more than willing to chat with customers and marvel at the variety of items that people bring in.
After a man walked in looking to sell him a gold chain with a cross on it, Bertman took no more than a couple of minutes to decide that it was worth a couple of hundred dollars.
“Somebody wrote a whole prayer book on the back of the cross,” he said to the customer. “Amazing.”
The customer had said he needed to sell the chain so he could buy a new car battery. Bertman sent him on his way with the cash and wished him luck.
While the rise of the World Wide Web has hurt many brick-and-mortar retailers, Bertman thinks the jewelry industry is, to an extent, safe.
He held up a couple of diamond rings.
“How could you see the sparkle on a computer screen?” he said.