Those who grew up in Southie may remember visiting Calnan’s Card and Gift Shop, a neighborhood staple that sold gifts, religious goods, and jewelry. Now, Carson Calnan Pitts, 39-year-old nephew of Joe Calnan, is continuing the family tradition with Inner Harbor Jewelers. Originally founded in 2014, the store moved to Southie last October and offers original, handcrafted jewelry along with on-the-spot repairs. It’s located just a few feet from where the original location—now occupied by Roza Lyons—stood, bringing the Calnan name back to East Broadway.
Though Pitts’ entire family hails from Boston, he grew up in upstate New York. During his childhood, he would visit Boston often and see Joe Calnan—his uncle and the son of Calnan’s founder—teaching jewelry-making at North Bennet Street School. That’s where his own passion for jewelry began. Pitts later moved to Boston at 21. “That’s when I started working with my uncle next door,” he said.
When the original Calnan’s shop closed in 2014, Pitts knew he wanted to pursue something similar, so he founded Inner Harbor Jewelers that same year in East Boston. The original store—a tiny 12 by 10 space—initially offered just on-the-spot repairs. Even now—in a sleek, spacious space off East Broadway with room for three glass display cases, a counter, and a workspace in the back—Pitts keeps a narrow focus, providing repairs and selling his handmade jewelry. “Retail has changed so much now that I really just focus on custom work and service,” he said.
To that end, Pitts caters his work to each individual customer—and stone, whether it’s platinum, moonstone, garnet, gold, or diamond. “Sometimes I make pieces based on particular stones I get, and I make a piece around the stone. A lot of the time, it’s by customer request. But it’s always a custom piece.” In an era where mass-produced jewelry pieces can be found online with a simple search, Pitts crafts unique products. “You work around the digital area. The digital jewelry stuff, it’s pretty simple. It’s not as diverse as jewelry is,” he said. Pitts’ store offers a variety of pieces, from tri-diamond studs to labradorite pendants to authentic Irish Claddagh rings like the ones found in the original Calnan’s store.
With changes in the jewelry market have come changes in jewelry craft. When Pitts first learned how to make pieces, “it was metal fabrication and rolling metal and heating the material and physically working it.” As technology progressed, computer modeling and 3D printing became a big part of the process. For people like Pitts, these shifts make jewelry-making a learn-as-you-go process.
As much as he enjoys crafting custom pieces, what Pitts cherishes most about his job is the opportunity to interact with customers, something buoyed by the move to the larger Southie location. “You’re working behind a bench for, you know, eight hours a day. When people come in, the day gets broken up, which is nice.”
That’s especially true in Southie, where customers sometimes walk in recognizing his middle name from the sign. Even as the neighborhood keeps changing, Inner Harbor Jewelers continues the Calnan tradition in its own form, bringing neighborhood roots to a new generation.
Inner Harbor Jewelers is located at 705 East Broadway