(photos by Stephanie Horst)
Marilyn Monroe adjusted her platinum blond wig while Audrey Hepburn poured herself a ladleful of ruby red punch. Dressed as their favorite style icons from the golden age of glamour, the staff of costume jewelry shop Filthy Rich of Boston, best known for its celebrity-inspired pieces past and present, aimed to attract early Halloween revelers Thursday night by hosting the store’s first Haunted Hollywood Masquerade, promising costumed shoppers a store discount.
Storeowner Amy Montminy, donning Jackie Kennedy’s pearls and famous oversized sunglasses – both exact replicas from the store’s Jacqueline Kennedy Collection – said the legendary first lady helped influence her decision to open Filthy Rich of Boston along Hanover Street after seeing a similar store Florida.
“I thought, I could do this here, especially with the history with the Kennedys,” said Montminy. “And I had a whole collection of Jackie Kennedy pieces and that’s why I thought this would be a perfect location. I knew I had to be in Boston in an area where there’s heavy foot traffic.”
Although Thursday night’s freezing temperatures and dismal drizzle turned the store’s North End neighborhood into a strangely desolate ghost town, Montminy was not dismayed. She is hoping for a bustling weekend full of curious tourists, festive partygoers and perhaps one or two homely Norma Jeane Bakers in need of some glitz.
On a visit to the store Friday morning, a gaggle of women from Ohio clogged the entryway, talking excitedly to each other while admiring the faux diamonds and precious stones sparkling on shelves behind glass doors. Items in the front of the store, where the Golden Era Hollywood and Jacqueline Kennedy Collections are displayed, range in price from $40 to $130. Each piece is an exact replica – Montminy works with a limited number of exclusive vendors legally licensed to replicate the designs – of jewelry worn by the celebrities of yesteryear, like the pink kunzite ring belonging to Jackie, JFK’s last gift to his wife.
“All the pieces come with a story detailing who wore it and in what famous movie perhaps,” said Montminy. “Or whether it’s from their personal collection or from a famous publicity photo shoot.”
Montminy, who first opened Filthy Rich of Boston in 2009, said older women, especially, often gravitate to the old Hollywood pieces of the 1950s, but said she wanted to expand her inventory to attract a younger generation as well.
“In today’s world a lot of these young women don’t know who these old Hollywood stars are – Ingrid Bergman, Bette Davis – and so I thought, you know, I could probably expand,” said Montminy in a conversation at the store.
So at the beginning of this year, after moving Filthy Rich of Boston to a bigger space on the same block, Montminy launched Bling! of Boston, a new contemporary sister collection inspired by present day celebrities and high-end jewelry lines, such as Tiffany’s and David Yurman, within the same storefront at the current 236 Hanover Street location. The new inventory, which is arranged on tables in the back alongside photos of Kate Middleton and Jessica Alba wearing similar accessories, also offers lower prices. Although the Bling! collection is only inspired, not replicated, by modern designs, Montminy said it has proved to be a hit with patrons.
Montminy, a South Shore resident who previously worked for her husband’s law practice full-time, said she often takes her 14-year-old twin daughters along on trips to New York City to shop for current trends.
“What’s very hot right now, at least all through the spring and summer, was Kate’s ring, that I can’t keep it in the store,” said Montminy.
A woman wearing sneakers and a tourist fanny pack admired a blue metallic clutch inspired by Kate Middleton with a friend.
“We don’t’ have anything like this in New York, that we know of,” said New York resident Nancy Goldman, 48. “And it’s hard to say that because there’s very little we don’t have in New York.” Although she confessed it wasn’t really her style, she said she liked the idea of “making celebrity accessible.”
Although tourists make up a large percentage of Montminy's business – and a large number of questions asked about where to park and eat dinner – she said the store has a strong neighborhood following on Facebook and a large email list.
Dorchester resident and regular patron Cheryl Fraser, 47, who works at the post office across the street, said she was Montminy’s first customer, lured into the store after admiring the window display out front.
“They pretty much showcase everything,” said Fraser. “And there’s always something there you’re going to love. So that brings me in. So once I’m in, it’s fun. The prices are reasonable, and it’s fun. I feel like a kid in a candy store.”
The store is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and until 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday (Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.).
“Customer service is huge,” said Montminy. “You can’t stand behind the counter, you have to strike up a conversation with the customer because a lot of time they won’t know what they’re looking at, they don’t realize that it’s an actual replica of someone’s piece of jewelry. So you have to explain, you have to have a running dialog.”