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Not many shops survive to ring in their golden anniversary, much less past it. But The Silversmith on West 4th has been open over 50 years. Proprietor Ruth Kuzub has been working there since 1960, later opening her own shop in the creative crevice wedged between two buildings. And though she needs no further credentials to burnish her image as a neighborhood fixture, she is the caretaker of our latest Business of the Month.
Ms. Kuzub has been a sterling member of the Greenwich Village community since the people with “long hair and bare-feet” strolled the neighborhood, as she puts it in this video interview by Manhattan Sideways.
You might walk right by this unique stall-like shop if you didn’t know it was there, but her small display of broaches, rings, necklaces and amulets help draw the careful observer in. Some have known her for decades and stop by to thank her for the wedding ring she fashioned many years ago. Others thank her just because she is still there, an important link to the history of the neighborhood.
Ms. Kuzub recalls making her first ring when she was just learning how to solder and fashion metal together. She made a mold out of it. She still has that ring and it is not for sale!
In fact, Ms. Kuzub used to make every piece of jewelry she sold there, but after she broke both her wrists she has instead been selecting finely crafted items from across the world to stock. She now carries amber from the Baltic states and Native American-made turquoise pieces, and other select items. At her shop you can find jewelry for any fashion sense, and she will will take in those special items that might need fixing.
In the course of a wonderful conversation that touched upon many issues past and present, Ms. Kuzub lamented the number of empty storefront that tarnish the Greenwich Village streetscape. She drew our attention to the website by Travelerette that has chronicled some of this phenomena. While there is no silver bullet to solve this periodic vacancy issue, there are a few ideas put forward in this New Yorker article on how it might be addressed.
In a fascinating chain of connection on this West 4th Street stretch, artist Francisco Rabejas, one of the most famous jewelers of Greenwich Village, once also had a shop here. He came to NYC from the Dominican Republic when he was 16, and like Ms. Kuzub he was self taught.
If you want to stop by the shop give her a call to make sure she is open. Usually after 4pm and if it is not raining she’s there, and might share with you about the times when there were far more jewelers and artists on the block. She calls herself “The last artist of all the artists that were on the street.” Stop by The Silversmith before the diamond anniversary.