Springer’s Jewelers has survived two world wars, the Great Depression, the Great Recession and countless changes in jewelry tastes over more than a dozen decades.
Now, the store is celebrating its 150th anniversary in the midst of a pandemic – the second for the store, by the way.
“Change is something we’ve been good at for 150 years,” said Lilly Mullen, who runs the stores along with her sister Zoey Beaulieu. Springer’s has locations in Portland, Bath and Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Mullen and Beaulieu are the great-great-granddaughters of Edmund Beaulieu, who bought the store from the Springer family in 1925 and ultimately moved it to its present location on Congress Street in 1947.
The original Springer’s was a dry goods store, “like a higher-end trading store,” Mullen said. It sold jewelry, clothes, eyeglasses, fine china, silverware and other items from its original location in Westbrook and then eventually narrowed the focus to jewelry as it moved to Portland.
Mullen said the store has been around so long because it stayed relevant by adapting to changing styles, paying close attention to customers and creative marketing.
Springer’s is known for its promotions, she said, such as the win-a-diamond giveaway in 1947 to mark the move to a new location on Congress Street. Customers could buy a small box for $1, she said, and one lucky buyer found a diamond inside. Mullen said she found a newspaper clipping showing a large crowd gathering outside the store to find out who the lucky winner was.
It recent years, the store has offered a promotion in which customers would have their purchases paid for if it snowed six inches or more on Christmas Day. Two years ago, a snowfall came within about an inch of that mark, she said, but it wasn’t quite enough for the store – or more accurately, the insurance company that covered the promotion – to have to pay out.
Mullen said the store also prides itself on knowing its customers. For previous generations, that meant salespeople would keep notes on a Rolodex of what customers had expressed an interest in when they came into the store. Today, she said, there’s an online wish list for customers to record things they’d like to get, in case a relative or friend comes in looking to buy a birthday or holiday gift. The company also offers a chat feature so a customer can deal directly with a salesperson online.
Springer’s is also beefing up its online sales presence to adapt to changing times, including the pandemic, which is expected to mean less in-person shopping during the upcoming holiday season.
Mullen said those kinds of adaptations are something Springer’s embraces.
“Change is not something new to us – it’s something that we welcome, which is a key to being a 150-year-old business,” she said.
Beaulieu said a particular area of focus for her is estate jewelry. She said that’s a particularly interesting part of the job because many times, neither she nor the customer