With all the changes in Downtown Crossing, it can be hard to imagine that any of the businesses have stuck it out through the years of transformations and the recession of 2008, but that’s what has happened in the Jeweler’s Exchange Building. Built in 1922, it saw a few early incarnations before settling in as a home for a group of family-owned jewelers in the ’40s, and currently well over a hundred of them call it home. It’s the sort of place where families shop for generations, and where referrals are a huge part of business.
One person who has had a front row seat to the transformation of Downtown Crossing is Steven Freedman, who runs Freedman’s Jewelers.
“We’re on our seventieth year. My father, David C. Freedman, bought it when he was 21 years old, in in 1945, right after World War II,” explains Freedman.
And the younger Freedman has been an active participant for many of those years.
“I always worked here, summers as a child, and when I was in high school and college and over Christmas. But I started working full time 41 years ago in May of 1974,” he explains.
Watching the changes over the years hasn’t always been easy. “We relied on Filene’s Basement dramatically. The whole downtown area relied on it to bring people in when they had a sale. And when they closed down and they ripped down the building, it was like it took away the heart of the downtown area,” Freedman recalls. “We had no reason to come downtown.”
Luckily, things have been looking up lately. “We’re changing now, but it took seven or eight years to really make the transition.”
Diamond engagement rings, of course, remain a consistently popular item for all jewelers, but the Jeweler’s Exchange Building stands out in terms of what it can offer. Because there are wholesalers, setters and retailers in the building, the jewelers inside can be speedy all-in-one shops for their customers. Freedman recalled one customer who came in on a Saturday with a price range in mind and a flight to catch that night, preferably with a freshly sized ring in hand. “It took about two hours. I sent him to the North End for lunch, he walked to Quincy Market, he got cannolis at Mike’s, and he was back at four o’clock and on the flight at seven,” explains Freedman.