One of the most beloved and longest-running shops on Charles Street, Blackstones will celebrate 40 years in business this Saturday, Sept. 24.
“There are some stores that survive 40 years, but not many,” said Jennifer Hill, who together, with her husband, Jim, owns the store now located at 40 Charles St.
But Blackstones is also in good company among a handful of other stalwart business on Charles Street as Jim quickly point out: “Charles Street has quite a few family-owned, legacy stores like Charles Street Supply, Gary Drug, DeLuca’s, and Linens on the Hill,” he said.
On July 3, 1982, five gentlemen opened the shop at 46 Charles St., which was originally known as Blackstone’s of Beacon Hill. It stocked “unique and distinct gifts” and home accents, and many of the products had a “Boston flair” to appeal to the countless visitors to Charles Street’s Antique Row.
The next chapter for Blackstones began on April 1, 1996, when Lynne Miller, who had years of previous retail experience working at Brooks Brothers, assumed ownership of the shop. While the business remained much the same, she modified its tagline to “Gifts for all reasons and seasons.”
Exactly 10 years later on April 1, 2006, current owners, Jennifer and Jim Hill, along with their former business partner, Mark Duffield, acquired the shop.
“[We] were fortunate to take over a neighborhood store that had a stellar reputation built by the previous owners,” wrote Duffield, who retired in 2014. “But we brought our own brand of new products, creativity, and neighborhood philanthropy.”
Added Duffield: “I think a seminal moment is when faced with a recession we broadened our customer and revenue base outside of our state with the five-year Mystery Ornament Program and accompanying book, ‘The Last Shepard and Tales of the Tenth Ornament.’ This produced a reliable stream of income we could count on every year despite the bad economies and raised thousands for Mass. General’s cancer program for children and garnered many awards…local, regional and national including the Beacon Award! I think this appealed to what we did best…Christmas, creativity, philanthropy, and love of neighborhood.”
The Beacon Hill Civic Association awarded its 17th annual Beacon Award to Jennifer Hill and Duffield on behalf of Blackstones in May of 2013 for making for making what was deemed “a sustained and significant contribution to the community.”
On April 1, 2010, Jennifer and Jim Hill opened a gourmet kitchen store called KitchenWares by Blackstones at 215 Newbury St. as a successor to KitchenArts, a similar business which had previously occupied the same space for more than 30 years. The Hills even received permission from the owners of KitchenArts to adopt a similar business name that pays homage to the earlier establishment. Besides marking the 40-year milestone for Blackstones, 2022 is also the 40th anniversary of KitchenArts’ opening on Newbury Street, according to Jennifer.
On April 1, 2020, Blackstone’s of Beacon Hill and KitchenWares merged under one roof on Charles Street, with the combined businesses simply called Blackstones.
Still today, Blackstones customers are often pleasantly surprised to learn that KitchenWares is still in business and now operating on Charles Street.
“We get people in all the time, and when they realize that the store used to be on Newbury Street, they say, ‘oh, you didn’t leave the city – we found you,;” said Jennifer.
On Sept. 1 of the same year, Blackstones moved from 46 Charles St. to its current home at 40 Charles St., which at 1,400 square feet, is more than double the size of the old 550 square-foot storefront. The added space has allowed Blackstones to increase its inventory to include Kitchen, Home, and Gifts.
“With the expanded store at 40 Charles, we’ve been able to increase our assortment throughout the store,” said Jim. “There are things we never handled before because we didn’t have the space. There’s a lot going on here.”
The store is currently “loaded” with fall products, said Jim, including autumn décor and Halloween items.
For Blackstones’ 40th anniversary celebration this Saturday, drawings will be held throughout the day at the store, with “thousands of dollars in products to give away,” said Jim, who added that the store will also be offering gifts to customers with their purchases.
“Another business that’s very special to us is the Women’s Lunch Place on Newbury Street, said Jennifer, “and it’s also their 40th anniversary, so as part of our day-long celebration during shopping hours, we’ll be donating 40 percent of our proceeds to them.”
Duffield will also be on hand at 2 p.m. for a booksigning for “As I Recall: Wings of Remembrance,” his third book which features illustrations by former Beacon Hill Mail carrier, Nancy O’Hearn, and cover art by Mark’s twin sister, Sharon Duffield. The book recounts the true events of 2006 when Mark and Jennifer Hill assumed ownership of Blackstones and how Mark wishes his late father were there to lend him counsel during this challenging time.
But even before their 40th anniversary celebration has come to pass, Blackstones is early looking ahead to the next major event.
“The next biggest event we’re thinking about is Boston’s 400th birthday in 2030,” said Jim. “We hope the whole street becomes one of the most desirable tourist attractions in the city by then.”
For more information on Blackstones, visit blackstonesboston.com.