For decades, Billy Cosetta has been helping members of the community. If a set of rosary beads needs repair, Cosetta, the owner of Murphy’s Jewelry, fixes them at no charge.
This winter, when Cosetta found out he was being evicted from the East Broadway storefront where Murphy’s has long been located, the community rallied around the small business owner who has shown generosity.
His daughters set up an online fundraising campaign to help finance his relocation. More than $15,000 was raised in two months.
“I wouldn’t have been able to move without it,” Cosetta said of the community’s fundraising efforts.
Murphy’s Jewelry is now in a new building on West First Street. The development – condos with commercial space on the ground level – is owned by Gregg Donovan and Jason Rey. They heard about Murphy’s Jewelry’s need for a new location and remembered that Cosetta had once repaired Rey’s mother’s rosary, Cosetta said. Donovan and Rey offered him a good deal on the rent, he said.
“They helped me out. They came right through,” Cosetta said.
Donovan said he has known Cosetta for most of his life.
“It was available for rent, and we saw (Cosetta’s story) on the news … and we thought, that would be a good way to be helpful to a South Boston business that’s been a staple for a lifetime, really,” Donovan said. “I’m happy to be helpful to a person who has been very good to South Boston.”
Rey declined to be interviewed.
In January, Cosetta received an eviction letter from his East Broadway landlord, he said, leaving Murphy’s with an uncertain future. Nikki Konchack, one of Cosetta’s daughters, very quickly developed a plan, establishing an online fundraiser to help her father move.
“Please help lighten the load of relocating, setting up a new alarm system, new steel grates and so much more by contributing anything that you can, no matter how big or small,” she wrote on the gofundme webpage. “I know he would be way too proud to ask or take anything from anyone so my sister and I are doing it for him.”
Cosetta said he didn’t even learn about this fundraising effort for a few weeks, until a woman stopped by the jewelry store with a check for his fund.
The donations from community members helped him afford this space and renovations to it, he said. Cosetta moved on Saturday, March 26 and opened Tuesday, March 29. (He would have opened that Monday, but Sunday was Easter, as well as the birth of his grandson.)
After a few weeks at the new location, business is going fairly well – with one exception.
“The only problem I’m having is people are having a little bit of a difficult time finding me,” he said.
The shop is at 403 West 1st St., a one-way block off of Dorchester Street. If a person were to drive down East 1st Street to connect to West 1st Street, he or she would miss this block, which is better accessed by driving down East 2nd Street to Dorchester Street.
“(I’ve) got to get people accustomed to the new spot,” he said.
But Murphy has had customers frequenting his new spot. By 10:30 a.m. on Friday, he had already repaired a watch and a rosary. The day before, he fixed three rosaries.
The tradition of repairing rosaries for free precedes Cosetta. Tom Murphy, the previous owner, passed along this practice to Cosetta, who began working at the jewelry store when he was a young boy. (Cosetta purchased the business from Murphy in 1998.)
“Back in the 60s or 70s, I fixed a pair of rosaries for somebody and didn’t know what to charge them – I was very young – so I asked the owner at the time. I said, ‘What do I charge them for this?’ He said, ‘Nothing … we don’t charge for fixing rosary beads.’ I said, ‘Why not?’ He said, ‘We just don’t,’” Cosetta said. “So we never charged for fixing rosaries.”
With the online donations came stories of appreciation that show Cosetta’s kindness and assistance to customers.
“Your dad fixed my broken camera the day before I was leaving for vacation in Aruba. He wouldn’t accept any money and I’ll never forget it!” wrote one commenter.
“Southie’s demographics may have changed, somewhat, but the generous community spirit of South Bostonian’s helping one of its own has not!” wrote another.
The new storefront is still a work in progress – boxes need to be unpacked and the walls are largely bare – but it is not all different from its previous location. Claddagh rings, crosses, watches and other jewelry fill glass cases. Near Cosetta’s work area, a picture leans against the wall. In it, a younger Cosetta stands with Kevin Pollard, a former Murphy’s Jewelry employee, and Tom Murphy, the previous owner.
Cosetta will soon hang the original Murphy’s Jewelry sign on his new storefront, though it’s not something he ever envisioned doing.
“I’ve been here (in South Boston) for a long time. There’s a lot of stores around Southie that were old time stores, that were just always here that everybody knew. And little by little, they all disappeared. They disappear, they become a pizza parlor, they become a finger nail place, they become something else,” he said. “And I just always thought I’d be that one guy that was gonna stay where I was, I was gonna stay there forever.”
Murphy’s Jewelry is at 403 W. 1st St., South Boston. For more information, call 617-268-0033.