There on the bustling corner of 1 South Market Street, the building of Colonial Jewelers looms in stately elegance. Formerly housing the Maryland National Bank, the two-story edifice is hard to miss, with beautifully decorated windows and a guard always keeping watch. To be sure, the interior is yet another level of grandeur, boasting high ceilings, graceful chandeliers, crystal-clear displays, and of course, gorgeous jewelry. Yet behind those doors is something still more precious—and even surprising—than the stones they have to offer: a local, hard-working family spanning four generations who love just as hard as they work.
On May 24th of 2023, Colonial Jewelers held their 75th Anniversary Celebration, officially making them the oldest business in downtown Frederick. While this is a monumental milestone in and of itself, it’s not all they were celebrating that evening. During the event, previous owners Jeff and Patty Hurwitz officially passed the baton to their daughter, Sarah Hurwitz Robey. This multigenerational family business now spans four generations, a fact that not many companies can boast. So how did they get here?
Colonial Jewelers (originally Colombia Jewelers) was born in the early 1900s by Ben Hurwitz, a skilled clockmaker from Belarus. With time, it seamlessly grew into a multigenerational family business when one of his sons, Will, opened a new location in Frederick with his wife Marilyn in 1948. During that time they shifted their focus to diamonds and jewelry exclusively, and 30 years later, Will and Marilyn passed the business on to their son and his wife, Jeff and Patty Hurwitz. Now, their daughter Sarah is beginning her stretch as the fourth-generation owner of their long-standing business. That being said, while their family lineage is certainly something to marvel at, it isn’t the only factor that has contributed to their incredible success all these years.
From the moment they opened up shop on North Market Street, Will and Marilyn Hurwitz were wholeheartedly committed to the downtown Frederick community—but not just when it was thriving. In 1974, the Frederick Towne Mall opened its doors, and most restaurants and retailers downtown left to claim their spot in the new attraction. “...downtown was super depressed and vacant,” Jeff Hurwitz recalled, and only two years later, downtown Frederick would take another hit—this time in the form of a flood that forced many retailers to completely close their doors. Nevertheless, the Hurwitz family was determined to stay. They had fallen in love with this community, and as a result, they were committed to staying a part of it.
“...it’s really an accepting community—very accepting,” Jeff explained. “People move in from wherever they move in…and I think they're all very well received, …I know other towns are not like that.” And so, to the community that had given so much to them, they were giving back, taking a risk and putting in the work to stay through the drought, even when everyone else was leaving.
Years passed and Jeff and Patty Hurwitz would be next to take the mantle, but the thread of this family’s commitment to the surrounding community remained as strong as ever. They continued to find new and creative ways to show their love for downtown Frederick–even in the face of life changing circumstances.
In 1999, Patty was suddenly diagnosed with breast cancer. They were shocked and devastated by the news, but it wasn’t long before Patty thought of a way to use her struggle to benefit her community.
At the time of her diagnosis, Patty had to travel to Baltimore because of the lack of resources in Frederick. But instead of simply buckling down and getting through her treatment, she immediately looked outside of herself. “I think that when things do happen to you, if you can turn it into something good or make something better out of it, then that’s part of your healing…” Patty shared. “It was a way we could use our business, because I remember thinking, ‘How can we use what we have and what we know how to do and raise money?’” So with that mindset, she set out to find a way to provide the advanced technology that saved her life in Baltimore for the people of Frederick. The result? The Hurwitz Breast Cancer Fund, dedicated to equipping Frederick Health with the newest and most advanced technology for early detection and treatment of breast cancer, of which 100% of the proceeds go towards these expenses. And this was no one-time endeavor. Between their annual Pink Ribbon Gala and Pink Ribbon 5k, they have raised over three million dollars since establishing the Fund. Still, they haven’t made it to 75 years on commitment alone.
Since its founding, the family behind Colonial Jewelers has been just as committed to the Golden Rule as they have been to Frederick in every aspect of the business. Everything they do is done with love, respect, and consideration—an overflow of their familial backbone. They’ve established business hours that allow their staff to have weekends off and weeknights free. They commit to high-quality jewelry and stones that will last and are worth the price yet have financing options to fit every budget. They go above and beyond to take care of their people, so it’s no wonder the community loves them. They love well, and thus they are easy to love—and Sarah Hurwitz Robey plans to keep the spark alive.
Patty was not surprised when Sarah followed in her footsteps.
“She actually started coming to work when she was two weeks old,” Patty recalled. “I just brought her with me, and we had a little office in the back and she had her little swing…so she was sort of indoctrinated at an early age.” Early on, Sarah expressed interest in the business. “When she was three years old she said, ‘I wanna work in the store’, and she would come in and sit on Jeff’s lap and sort the little tiny diamonds. That was like her favorite thing to do.” And it wasn’t just toddler talk. Often wanting to play store and find something to sell, her interest grew unwaveringly as she grew.
Sarah, too, recalls being intrigued with the business as a young girl, but it wasn’t simply overhearing all the grown ups talk about “the store” that piqued her interest.
“I always tell people the reason I think I love it so much is they never pushed me,” Sarah shared. “They never said, ‘Sarah, you’re the heir’…that made me want to do it, because I didn’t ever feel like this is expected of me—it didn’t feel like a burden. It felt like a very big blessing.”
Today, Sarah has earned her place as the next generation of Colonial Jewelers. Not only has she obtained a Business Degree from Virginia Commonwealth University and Graduate Gemologist Degree from the Gemological Institute of America, but she also started at the bottom, just like everyone else.
“I’m very proud to say I’ve done every job that exists in the store,” Sarah shared. “That was a great approach that mom and dad had to teach me the business, not just come in and make up a role for me because I was family.”
Suffice it to say that Sarah’s well prepared for the tall task of carrying the torch. In fact, she's already spearheaded some major projects for the business that have taken it to the next level—such as their stunning renovation and rebrand in 2021. The historic building received a transformative upgrade under Sarah’s direction, boasting a more accessible case layout and a transformed mezzanine area among other things. She also led the way for utilizing 3D printing into their process and led the transition from a manual system to a digital one.
And while she intends to keep the values of past generations that have become so characteristic of Colonial Jewelers alive, she also has a vision of her own for the company.
“...My ideal scenario would be anyone in the Frederick community, when they think they need a jeweler, they would also think Colonial first…” Sarah shared, “and they would feel like they could come shop here…there’s no reason why you wouldn’t buy from Colonial…”.
It’s no secret that Colonial Jewelers only sells and creates high quality jewelry, but it’s not just for profit’s sake. “We’ve never wanted to sell something that might look pretty and then break a week later because it’s shoddy quality…my grandfather always said he'd rather justify the price than apologize for the quality,” she explained. “People know that if they buy something from here it's going to last and we’re going to stand behind it...”
At the same time, Sarah doesn’t want their reputation for high-quality jewelry to make them feel unapproachable to some within the community. Instead, she hopes that people with all kinds of budgets feel confident that they, too, are welcome and able to shop with Colonial. We have a feeling that won’t be too difficult with the legacy of love that her predecessors left behind and that runs in the family.
Colonial Jewelers has certainly earned its 75th year in downtown Frederick, and Sarah has earned her place as the fourth generation owner of the well-esteemed family business. Here’s to 75 years and beyond! ColonialJewelers.com