‘Most Long Islanders remember our flagship department store in Westbury. I was 10 years old on opening day and I remember cutting the ribbon!’
“I feel like it’s an honor to carry on the Fortunoff name. My grandparents worked hard to create their family business 100 years ago, and my parents spent their lives expanding it. My grandparents actually started by selling pots and pans, and my parents branched out into home goods and jewelry. My mother, in particular, was a jewelry expert, and she would take my sister Ruth and I around the world with her to meet different jewelry vendors. When my mother got older, Ruth and I took over for her. I have spent most of my career buying, designing settings for, and selling diamond, pearl and gemstone jewelry.
“Most Long Islanders remember our flagship department store in Westbury. I was 10 years old on opening day and I remember cutting the ribbon! It was wonderful to grow up in the store. My grandfather had an office on the third floor, and he specialized in lampshades well into his 80s. My grandmother, who had an office on the second floor, continued to focus on kitchen wares. My father dealt primarily with silverware, and my cousins purchased crystal goods for the store and would happily show me all the new acquisitions. My uncles and aunts specialized in furniture, which the store became quite well known for.
Throughout the 1980s, we were known for big bold jewelry as well as classic art deco looks, which never seem to go out of style.
“Three generations of our extended family were at that store several days a week. The busiest time of the year was the before Christmas, but it was also the most fun because it was bustling, which was exciting. We stayed open on Christmas Eve, and we always had a few last-minute shoppers stop in! We also had events where celebrities came to the store. We even developed jewelry lines for ice skaters and tennis players. Throughout the 1980s, we were known for big bold jewelry as well as classic art deco looks, which never seem to go out of style. In 2005, my grandparents sold the company, but I stayed on as an employee who specialized in the jewelry section, which is something I had been doing since I was 14.
“Ultimately, the store couldn’t survive the recession of 2008 and went into liquidation. The day the store closed in May of 2009 was very sad. Selling online is very different from selling in a store, but I also maintain an office in case clients want a piece of jewelry restored or customized.”
Interviewed by Meagan Meehan