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A Chat with Fred

Albert's Company History

In 1905, Albert Rubinstein hung his shingle at the corner of Main Street and Broadway in East Chicago's Indiana Harbor neighborhood. More than a century later, the business still is known as Albert's Jewelers, and has been owned and operated by the Halpern family since 1960. The follow excerpts were taken from a Chicago Post-Tribune article in which Fred Halpern was interviewed:

“I was born and raised in Chicago and went to South Shore High School,” Halpern began. “My father was in the jewelry business in Chicago. A guy named Bernie Davis managed one of Dad's stores.”

“Davis was a great basketball player for Northwestern, but he loved the horses and loved the girls. He left my father and bought a store in Indiana Harbor called Albert's.”

How did Davis fare? “He got in (some financial) trouble ... plus, in '59, the mills closed down because of the steel strike. Davis went bankrupt. At the time, I'm a 21-year old junior at the University of Alabama who was working summer help at Republic Steel. My dad tells me, ‘We own that store in Indiana now; you got it.”

Bad for Davis, but good for you. “It was a bankrupt store with no inventory and no customers. My first year, we did $27,000 worth of business. I didn't get paid.”

“I lived at home with my parents at 78th and Yates. The second year, I did $36,000. I still didn't get paid. The only stuff we sold was called memorandum.”

Explain, please. “A person would come around and say: 'Freddy, here's $100 worth of merchandise. If you sell it, you pay me at the end of the week.' There were times they shut off my water or electricity — no money.”

What did you do? “I said to (heck) with this (stuff); either I'm gonna make it or I'm not. I started staying open until after every movie theater closed. All the other jewelry stores were closed; everything was closed but me. If a guy came out of the movies with his girlfriend ... he could buy her a pair of earrings for a buck.”

The secret to your success? “A positive mental attitude. You have to believe there is nothing you can't do. Also, be honest with your customers and find a way to outhustle your competition. I wasn't smarter than my competition, but I stayed open until almost midnight.”

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