- Last Updated on 06:06 AM 02/01/13
- BY Danielle Vaughn
After many years of success, great memories and pouring his life into Hodges Jewel Box, Levi Hamilton has decided to close the doors to the Main Street, South Boston fixture later this month.
“He loved working at the jewelry store and doing repairs,” said his wife, Amelia Hamilton. “He is having a hard time giving it up, but it’s time.”
The South Boston native said he made the painful decision to close due to lack of business.
The official closing date is Friday, Feb 15.
Hodges Jewel Box has been known over the years for its watch and jewelry repairs, novelty items and a wide variety of jewelry.
When his father, a carpenter who owned his own business, sent him to build some steps for the newly opened Jewel Box in 1946, Hamilton said he never envisioned that one day the store would be his own.
Back then the store belonged to three men, Ned Cohen, Murray Fitterman and Joseph Hodges, and it was part of a store chain called The Jewel Box.
After seeing how hard he worked on building the steps, the three owners hired Hamilton as a part-time janitor.
Shortly after that, Hamilton married his wife, Amelia, on Oct. 6, 1949.
He continued to work at the store until they had their first two children, and then he decided he need to make more money, so he left to join the Air Force in 1951.
For two and a half years, Hamilton served his country at stations in San Marcus, Texas, Spokane, Washington and Korea before returning to his job at the fine jewelry store.
In 1953 Hodges bought his partners out of the store and changed the named to Hodges Jewel Box. Hamilton remained an employee there until Hodges sent him to attend Peters College of Watchmaking in Washington, D.C. , where he learned how to make and repair watches.
Upon his completion at the watchmaking college, Hamilton returned once again to Hodges Jewel Box where he specialized in watch and jewelry repairs.
He would work there the rest of his professional career.
Hamilton began running the shop after Hodges became ill.
When Hodges died in 1978, his wife, Martha Hodges, made Hamilton the assistant manager.
In 1985, Hamilton became sole owner of Hodges Jewel Box when he bought the store from Hodges’ wife.
“I thought it was a good investment, and it was until people got so they wouldn’t pay their bills,” Hamilton said.
The Hamiltons said Mrs. Hodges is now 97, and she resides in a nursing home in Raleigh N.C. They visit her every December on her birthday.
“Mr. and Mrs. Hodges were nice very nice people,” Amelia said.
In 1985 Amelia came to work at the store as her husband’s secretary and remained employed there until she retired in 1999. Even after her retirement, she still helped out from time to time over the years.
Amelia said she also is going to miss the store.
“We have seven children, and six of them went to college, so the store has been good for him and good for the family over the years,” she said.
The pair said the economy has really made the difference in whether business was good or bad over the years.
“People love jewelry,” Hamilton said.
“But they couldn’t afford it, and we understand that,” Amelia added.
After closing the store, Hamilton said he plans to visit all his children and grandchildren. He also looks forward to doing “some repair work,” and he plans to “stay happy and content.”
He also plans to give the building to his daughters who are not exactly sure what they want to do with it.
Hamilton was born in 1929, the seventh of 11 children born to William and Mary Susan Hamilton.
His brothers are William, Moses, Robert, George, Henry and Riley Hamilton. Emily Driggins, Ann Nelson, Vivian Clark and Geneva Clark are his sisters.
His father, William, was a carpenter, and his mother, Mary Susan, took care of the home.
He spent almost his entire life in the town of South Boston where he attended M. H. Coleman Grammar School. He also attended Booker T. Washington High School that later merged with Halifax Training School.
He left high school after the 11th grade.
The Hamiltons have seven children, seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.