|Jones - A South Boston Institution
|By Rick Winterson
Jones Department Store has been at K Street and Broadway since 1947. Amid shifting tastes, the current owner, Jerry Hersch, prides himself on filling retail niches for a wide range of customers. Stop in to see his scally caps, Southie merchandise, practical footwear, and imported sweaters.
That Jones Department Store is an institution here in South Boston goes without saying. It has been at the corner of K Street and Broadway for close to 60 years. But there’s some history that comes before 1947.
The original founder of Jones Department Store was George Kuritz, a Jew from Russia. He escaped from Russia around 1930, but the tides of anti-Semitism were rising all over Europe, so there was no place for him there. For several years, he lived in Cuba, harvesting mangoes and various vegetable crops.
Kuritz then married an American woman and moved here. His first retail store was in the North End. According to a family tradition, the name “Jones” came about in an odd way. When Kuritz ordered his first sign, he wanted it to read “John’s” – after his brother. But George Kuritz still spoke English with a heavy accent. The sign maker misunderstood Kuritz’s English, so the sign came back “Jones”. The ever-practical Kuritz shrugged his shoulders, said, “Jones it is!”, and so it has been ever since.
In 1940, Kuritz came to South Boston. He opened a Jones store on West Broadway, which sold notions, inexpensive toys, and sundries, a product line similar to the old Woolworth 5 & 10. He stayed there for seven years, because the scarcity of materials during World War II made it difficult to change inventories or locations.
Finally, in 1947, George Kuritz moved to the current Jones location at 673 East Broadway. He expanded into three store fronts, and in 1971, he bought the houses in back of the store and expanded back into them. Jerry Hersch, the current owner, worked for Kuritz from 1975 to 1978.
Jerry was born in Brookline, but Hull is really hometown, where he graduated from high school. His parents are Roberta (Lewis) and Mallory Hersch. Roberta is still alive, and living in Florida. Jerry has two sisters, Debbie and Rhonda, also living in Florida, and two brothers, Mark, who works at MGH, and Louis, who’s a realtor.
Jerry got a degree from Wentworth in Architectural Engineering and went on to several business courses at Bentley. He spent several years in retail, managing stores like Cummings (Medford, Dorchester) and Andrea’s Hideaway. He worked for 10 years at New England Store Fixture, a foodservice business in South Boston.
What goes ‘round, comes ‘round, they say. In 1997, Jerry bought Jones Department Store form the estate of George Kuritz. He has been there ever since. His mission: finding ways to serve the overall community best. He does this by stocking “niche” items that aren’t easily found elsewhere.
Jerry takes justifiable pride in his key lines. He has several brands of athletic shoes – Adidas, Reebok, Converse – as well as a wide range of work boots. His Irish knit sweaters and other woolen goods are all imported and are to die for. Other lines can be described as “ casual wear for men”.
When you stop in, be sure to look at the South Boston merchandise Jones Department Store has available – sweatshirts, caps, and T-shirts. There’s one T-shirt featuring a beautiful Southie scroll with marine signal flags that spell out “South Boston”. Don’t miss that one.
Nancy (Cascone) Dapkas is the Store Manager at Jones. Ask her about the custom-embroidered baby pillows Jones has for you.
As a final note, glance at the complete line of scally caps Jones carries. For those interested in the name “scally”, it’s short for scalawag. New longshoremen, all of whom wore scally caps, were called scalawags, and eventually the caps they always wore become known as “scallys”.
Jerry Hersch lives over his store, an old-fashioned custom. He likes to relax and lead a quiet life. In his spare time, which isn’t much, he rides motorcycles, or he goes fishing with friends on Cape Cod Canal.
(NOTE: Jones Department Store hours are from 9 to 6, Monday through Saturday. Call Jerry Hersch at (617)268-0358, or log onto jonesdepartmentstore.com)