One of Lexington’s oldest businesses is changing hands after 123 years

When Joe Rosenberg Jewelers put out banners, signs and balloons announcing big news, customers might have been surprised. After all, the store in downtown Lexington was doing something that it claims it has never done in 123 years: Having a sale.

The occasion? As owner Joe Rosenberg put it, a passing of the torch. Earlier this month, he signed majority interest of the store over to his long-time manager and watchmaker of more than 20 years, Jim Triantafillou.

But customers aren’t like to notice a big shift. Triantafillou said on Monday that beyond adding a few high-end watches to the merchandise, and freshening up the offerings a bit, he doesn’t plan to rock what’s been a successful boat for three generations.

The store will keep the name, the location at 163 East Main St., and even the Rosenberg family memorabilia on the wall.

Rosenberg said keeping the name wasn’t a condition of the sale but “I was touched” that Triantafillou wanted to.

The store was started in 1896 by the current Joe Rosenberg’s grandfather, also named Joe. He was a peddler, selling eyeglasses, who set up shop in Lexington. He eventually added musical instruments and jewelry, and operated a pawn shop in the middle of the block on Water Street before moving to the corner of Upper and Water.

When his grandson came into the business, he began investing in real estate, eventually owning most of the block. It was torn down in 2008 to make way for what is now the City Center development. And the business moved onto Main Street.

Jim Triantafillou, left, long-time manager and watchmaker at Joe Rosenberg Jewelers will be taking over the store from Joe Rosenberg, right, but the store will be staying downtown and the name won’t change. Ryan C. Hermens

Rosenberg said he’s glad the business will be staying downtown. “We had opportunities to move out of downtown but we never wanted to,” he said. “We believe in a vibrant, strong downtown Lexington.”

But none of Rosenberg’s three children were interested in going into the business, so he offered it to Triantafillou.

“It was a good opportunity,” Triantafillou said. And he thought it was important to keep the store, one of the oldest businesses in Lexington, going.

“One hundred and twenty-three years is a long time,” he said. “I hope to keep it going much longer.”

Rosenberg plans to stay involved in the business and will keep an office there.

“We have a great base of customers that we’ve developed over the years, and I think a lot of those people will come to use and continue to shop,” Triantafillou said. “I hope we can get a younger crowd in, too.”

Janet Patton covers restaurants, bars, food and bourbon for the Herald-Leader. She is an award-winning business reporter who also has covered agriculture, gambling, horses and hemp.
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