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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

J. B. ROBINSON CO., INC. - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

J. B. ROBINSON CO., INC., one of the largest retail jewelers in the country, was founded in 1946 by Joseph B. Robinson as a wholesale diamond operation located on the 8th floor of the Schofield Bldg. on E. 9th St. After Robinson's death in 1959, his son, Lawrence, changed the company to a retail jewelry firm, specializing in diamonds and watches with $200,000 in annual business. In the mid-1960s, the company started a radio campaign, with Robinson, who became known as the "Diamond Man," as spokesman. By 1975 the firm had 18 stores, 9 in Cleveland, with 240 employees and an annual business of $11 million. Four years later, the $35 million business was acquired by W.R. Grace Co. of New York, a diversified international corporation. The merger allowed Robinson to carry a wider range of merchandise and expand further. Grace transferred its retail operations, including Robinson, into a joint venture with Vroom & Dreesman B.V., the largest retailing organization in the Netherlands in 1981. At that time J. B. Robinson had 70 outlets and 650 employees with headquarters in the STATLER OFFICE TOWER on Euclid Ave.

In 1987, Grace sold the chain to Kay Jewelers, Inc., of Alexandria, VA. Robinson, after failing in a bid to repurchase the chain, left the company, which continued to use the J. B. Robinson name for its stores in Cleveland and the Midwest.

In 1990, Robinson re-entered the jewelry business, opening the Antwerp Diamond Centre in the TOWER CITY CENTER complex, followed soon after by Antwerp stores in Parmatown and RANDALL PARK MALL malls, a fourth Antwerp store in Washington, DC and the 10-store Royal Jewelry chain, also in Washington. But the recession of 1991 cut deeply into the retail jewelry market, and Robinson was forced to declare both chains bankrupt and close all stores in January 1992.

Last Modified: 26 Jun 1997 04:22:28 PM

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