Robert Wolf, 91, of Cherry Hill, a longtime fixture as the “go-to guy” on Philadelphia’s Jewelers Row, died Monday, March 15, of pneumonia at Virtua Marlton Hospital.
Mr. Wolf owned a family business at Eighth and Walnut Streets, and he gave as much attention to his kin and customers as he did to his bottom line. Jewelry was his stock-in-trade, but it was his warm interactions with family and shoppers that made his boutique feel more like a home away from home than a workplace.
Beginning in 1961, when he opened Wolf Jewelers with his cousin Stan Wolf, Mr. Wolf worked with his son, Lonnie; his father, Jack; his wife, Erma; and their daughter, Alissa. If you didn’t know about his wife and children when you met Mr. Wolf, you likely did when you parted.
“He was always talking about his family,” said fellow longtime jeweler Mel Rosenberg. “He and Erma were always together. He was a friendly guy and so easy to talk to. He treated everybody like family.”
“He was my best friend,” said his daughter.
In addition to his regular customers, Mr. Wolf sold jewelry to entertainers Sammy Davis Jr. and Eddie Fisher, daredevil Evel Knievel, and local notables Jack Kelly and Emma Chappell.
“He was sharper than sharp,” Rosenberg said. “He was friendly with all the other shopkeepers. He was loaded with info, and he shared it. If you needed to know something, you went to Bobby.”
Mr. Wolf got his start in the business as an errand boy on Jewelers Row when he was 15. Outgoing, fun-loving, and smart, he went on to become a salesman and then manager at Perloff’s jewelry story. He opened Wolf Jewelers when he was 31, bought out his cousin in the 1970s, and the store operated until 2019, when the family sold the building.
Mr. Wolf’s son joined him at the store after graduating from college and worked there for 39 years. His father, a former Philadelphia police officer, worked at the store after his retirement from the Police Department.
In 2007, Mr. Wolf was featured in The Inquirer about the rising price of gold and described this way: “He wears blue pinstripes to work, wishes that antiques could tell their sentimental stories, and — if you care to believe him — sleeps with his tie on. He does all of this with the slightest of smiles and the brightest twinkle in his jeweler’s eyes.”
Mr. Wolf was born March 6, 1930, and grew up in the Logan section of Philadelphia. Tall and lean, he went to Northeast High School and was a natural athlete who played tennis and volleyball. He made a name for himself as a star on the Raleigh Beach Bums, a volleyball team that dominated the Atlantic City summer scene.
“His middle name was fun,” his daughter said.
He met Erma Butchin at a wedding and told everyone later that it was love at first sight. They were married at the old Benjamin Franklin Hotel and spent 69 years together.
Mr. Wolf and his family moved from Mount Airy to Cherry Hill in 1968. He was an avid jogger, cyclist, and longtime Eagles fan.
An impeccable dresser, Mr. Wolf and his wife liked to entertain at home and dine out. They traveled to, among other places, Europe, South America, Africa, and Mexico. He liked to tell corny jokes and watch gangster movies.
“He was one of the cool guys in town,” Rosenberg said.
The last thing Mr. Wolf told his daughter was “I love you more than anything.”
In addition to his wife, son, and daughter, Mr. Wolf is survived by a granddaughter, a sister, and other relatives.
A memorial service is to be held later.