May 21, 2014

Forest Jewelers on Nassau Street Closes, Mitch Forest Bids Farewell to His Customers

tease   5-21  mitch forestjpegForest Jewelers, a fixture on Nassau Street and one of the town’s oldest “Mom and Pop” stores, has closed its doors. Hamilton Jewelers, the store’s larger neighbor a few doors down, is said to be purchasing the business, though no one on either end is ready to say for sure.

“We’re talking, but nothing is official yet,” Donna Bouchard, Hamilton’s vice president, said on Monday. “Nothing is ready for confirmation.”

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

The store at 104 Nassau has been a local institution for 32 years. Mr. Forest is heading to his home in Vancouver, Canada, where he owns a farm. “The commute is getting to be a bit much,” he quipped last week, taking a break at the store where customers were eyeing merchandise that was 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. 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.

Mr. Forest 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.

Last week, Mr. Forest said he 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.”