JEWELER-BROTHERS REMAIN FIXTURE IN CHANGING TOWN

In changing downtown Springfield, these jeweler-brothers remain a fixture

by Valerie Mosley, originally published in the Springfield News-Leader, syndicated by AP

At Rosenbaum’s Jewelry on Park Central Square, brothers Larry, 83, and Sid Rosenbaum, 69, sit in matching navy blue chairs in front of hand-carved claw-footed jewelry cases. They’re always ready to visit with customers and friends.

Sid’s “I love me” walls flank the entrance — certificates and photos of Sid in his Mason’s white cap, with his beloved Doberman, at basic training with an F85. The office in the back is similarly decorated with Larry’s memorabilia and his hand-carved plaques, chess pieces and canes.

The small store is nestled between the History Museum on the Square, still under construction, and the Fox Theatre, also owned by the museum. Recently, large trucks have nearly blocked the entrance. A new marquee is going up on the Fox Theatre. Larry barely notices the din of heavy equipment being used on the west side of the museum.

“I never complain,” he said. “They’re such nice people.”

Larry is proud of his shop and the life he’s built. “Every goal I’ve ever set for myself, I’ve achieved,” Larry said, joking that maybe he should have set higher goals.

“You have to realize how lowly I started.”

Larry was only 6 years old in 1936 when he and his parents boarded a ship to New York to escape Nazi Germany. The family moved to Poplar Bluff, where Sid was born in 1945. The only Jew in Poplar Bluff High School, “I was just a country boy,” Larry said.

When the brothers were 24 and 10, their father died, leaving Larry to raise Sid and care for their ill mother. There were no jobs in Poplar Bluff, so they moved to St. Louis for about two years. Then in 1958, Larry took a job managing the jewelry department at Biederman’s Department store in downtown Springfield.

In Springfield, Larry put himself through college and had many different jobs. He worked in sales at department stores, sold insurance and was an accountant. He went back to school and earned a master’s degree in recreational therapy and child psychology and opened a day care center.

“I was a financial failure until I went to work for myself,” Larry said.

After high school and three years in the Air Force, Sid worked as a phlebotomist at St. John’s Hospital while working on an accounting degree. He then moved to Texas to work as an auditor at the State Department of Health Education and Welfare.

Larry was lonesome and offered his brother “half of everything” to come do his books. The pay was about twice what Sid was earning in Texas. Accepting the offer was a “no-brainer.”

Both “confirmed bachelors,” the brothers have been partners ever since. “I’m the only person in the world he would’ve made that deal with,” Sid said.

They soon sold the day care and bought the Pearl Apartments at Jefferson and Madison.

“I freed him up for all the wheeling and dealing,” Sid said.

The jewelry store grew out of a flea market booth they started in 1978 with $500 in silver coins and $300 cash. They traded the coins for jewelry and eventually dropped the coin part of the business. Jeweler Wayne Hocklander taught Sid how to grade diamonds.

In 1980, they moved the business into an alcove in the Fox Theatre. Larry had always admired Mo Fayman’s jewelry store, which was in the same space the Rosenbaums now occupy. They were finally able to buy the building in 1984.

They opened Rosenbaum’s Jewelry and set to work building an apartment upstairs, designed by friend Bob Francis. The brothers specialize in estate and antique jewelry. They don’t compete with other jewelry stores because their pieces are unique, Larry said. They also have a selection of costume jewelry for $1 to $5.

“This is what I’ve always wanted,” Larry said. “This is very European. You live above and have your shop below.”

That’s why when the History Museum on the Square made a generous offer on the building in 2013, they refused to sell.

People come in almost every day to sell their jewelry. No one else buys costume jewelry, but Larry offers a few dollars, insisting the sellers keep the pieces that they might wear. They need the money for something, he says.

“That’s the kind of shop I run.”