The Tiny Jewel Box, which began in a 100-square-foot building 85 years ago, has expanded again.
And, as it has since 1930, this go-to jewelry and gift store for Washington’s elite is still owned by the Rosenheim family.
In December, Tiny Jewel Box expanded to the former Burberry clothing store on Connecticut Avenue, creating 20,000 square feet of retail and manufacturing space and giving the business exposure on both Connecticut Avenue and M Street.
“As we keep expanding, it becomes more and more ironic,” Jim Rosenheim said of the store’s name. He is the sandwich generation of owners. His mother, the late Roz Rosenheim, started the business. Then, with her husband, the late Monte Rosenheim, she opened Tiny Jewel Box in 1944.
The first store had no running water, Jim Rosenheim said.
He began working with his parents when he was 12. Now, the 73-year-old lifelong Washingtonian has taken a back seat to his son, Matthew, who is president.
“It’s really my son’s business. He owns it. I do not. We function as partners, but the mantle has shifted,” he said.
In a time when the Internet and chain stores continue to eat away at mom-and-pop businesses, Rosenheim said The Tiny Jewel Box had “by far, the best Christmas season we ever had.”
He credited that partly to his store’s expansion, but also to the attention brought by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and other city officials attending the Dec. 4 ribbon-cutting of the expanded facility.
The Internet may have taken away some business, he acknowledged, but it also has helped generate business by enabling the store to broaden its marketing reach.
“The Internet is a two-edged sword,” noted Rosenheim. “Our gains are greater than our losses.”
Known for its watch department as well as its antique and estate jewelry business, Tiny Jewel Box has gained notoriety for selling many of the pins that former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright wore.
When former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein called Albright an “unappalled serpent,” she began wearing a snake pin that she had bought at Rosenheim’s store. That led her to sporting various pins to mark her moods, many of them from Tiny Jewel Box.
Rosenheim recalled designing and making a pin of a cluster of multicolored grapes that Albright wore to her daughter’s wedding.
Treating celebrities started early. His mother waited on President Franklin D. Roosevelt, he said. “I have done lots of work for the White House. I have worked with Laura Bush, and we’ve done work for the Obama administration.”
Some items purchased by the White House have been given to dignitaries in England and Africa.
Politicians aren’t the only shoppers. Rosenheim said he has “waited on” Barbra Streisand, Lauren Bacall, Walter Cronkite, Debbie Reynolds, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Eli Wallach.
However, Rosenheim said he doesn’t want customers to think that he prefers the stars. Many ordinary Washington-area residents come through his doors.
“When somebody walks in my store, they get the ‘A’ game,” he said. “I am not going to treat a celebrity any different than I am going to treat you.”
Not all sales involve jewelry. Tiny Jewel Box is home to what Rosenheim referred to as “thank-you gifts,” ranging from table-top books and figures to stuffed animals.
Some of those gifts can be purchased for under $100, but “the majority of the business today is tilted toward the luxury side,” he said.
Optimistic about the future, Rosenheim said that he expects Tiny Jewel Box to grow as long as the family continues to have “good fortune, good judgment.”