Victor Ostroff began working at his family’s Manayunk,
Pa., jewelry store when he was 13 years old. He has spent the past 45
Christmases working at the family-run A.I. Poland Jewelers. For Ostroff,
closing the century-old store on Aug. 14 is bittersweet.
“I’m really getting closer to our last
date,” Ostroff tells JCK. “It’s
Ostroff took the reins of the
four-generation family store 20 years ago when his father fell ill. “We lived
above the store when I was born,” he says. “This has been my life.”
Ostroff’s great aunt and uncle opened
the store in 1899. His grandfather worked in the store his whole life. When his
father returned from World War II, he joined the business.
When Ostroff thinks about what he’ll
miss most about his store, the answer was simple. “All the memories with my
family and working with them,” he said. “I have more memories with them here
than I have anywhere else.”
The family history is something Ostroff
has been instilling in his customers. “As customers come in, we’re constantly
giving them the uniqueness of that history,” he says.
The store has remained in the same
location on the outskirts of Philadelphia since it opened. Ostroff has watched
the community grow. He says a lot of businesses were leaving when he was
younger. In the 1980s, new businesses started migrating to Main Street and the area became trendy and artsy.
“I’m probably one of the few people who
has seen it go from a bad area to a good area,” he says.
Ostroff says the store has evolved with
the retail industry. “We do a little of everything,” he says.
Ostroff says while closing the store
hasn’t been easy, the timing seems right. “The retail jewelry population is
entering the hardest time, where our commodity prices are out of control. For
myself, it’s bittersweet, but I’m not sure how, being an independent store, we
can be how we were 10 to 15 years ago.”
He says he is currently focused on
figuring out what to do with the antique fixtures in the store. “We need to
figure out how much an antique showcase will sell for and find a buyer who will
enjoy it as much as we have,” he says.
After that, Ostroff does not know what
his next move will be. “I’m not really sure how my life is going to morph,
whether I’ll do small repairs or take on more retail,” he says. “There are
too many moving figures. I don’t want to box myself in.”