May 15, 2014

Forest Jewelers Owners to Close Up Shop

One of Princeton’s oldest “Mom and Pop” stores is closing its doors next week. Forest Jewelers, a Nassau Street institution for 32 years, will sell its last bauble on Tuesday before owner Mitch Forest heads to his home in Vancouver, Canada, where he owns a farm. The store has been purchased by as-yet-unannounced buyer and will reopen in the same location, possibly with a new name.

“The commute is getting to be a bit much,” he said Wednesday, taking a break at the store where customers were eyeing merchandise that is up to 70 percent off. “But it’s hard to leave. I’ve made so many friends here. We have over 6,000 customers, and I worked with a lot of them for generations.”

In the jewelry business since 1968, Mr. Forest, who is 63, had a store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan before opening up shop in Princeton, first at 20 Nassau Street for 10 years, and later at his current location at 104 Nassau Street. Moving from New York, he lived in Ewing Township before settling in Kingston. While living in the area, he became involved in several community activities.

“I served on the library boards, and I was a founder and the first president of the Princeton Borough Merchants. I served in the Kingston Fire Company and worked with the late Barbara Sigmund on sidewalk projects,” he said. “There was also the Princeton Ballet Society, Eden Institute – so many things.”

Mr. Forest worked briefly at LaVake jewelers before he bought his first jewelry store in town from Henry Kalmus. When his current location became available, “I grabbed it,” he said. “Princeton was a different town then.There were a couple of shops that had been here forever, a few of which are still here.”

He approaches the business as a craftsman as well as a businessman. “What set me apart is the fact that I’m an actual jeweler and I sit at the bench,” he said. “I make jewelry. I’m the only hands-on jeweler in town.” Among the distinctions Mr. Forest can claim is the fact that a diamond cutter once came to the store. “It was the only diamond ever cut in Princeton, bought by a local resident,” he said.

Forest Jewelers has been purchased by “a very reputable buyer, which is all I can say until the papers are signed,” Mr. Forest said. “It will remain a jewelry store. It may still be called Forest Jewelers, but I’m not sure about that.”

He will continue to make and sell jewelry on a limited basis in Vancouver, where the farm he owns off the coast of British Columbia grows organic hops for breweries, as well as “every vegetable you can imagine.” Mr. Forest owes his involvement in the farm to the Princeton Rotary Club, because that is where he met the man, now his father-in-law, who got him started in that business.

The sale has been successful so far. And Mr. Forest has been touched by the response of those who wish him well. “A lot of people have come in just to say goodbye, which is really nice,” he said. “I’ll miss the friendships.”