Fortunoff Fine Jewelry celebrates 100 years

Fortunoff Fine Jewelry celebrates 100 years
A Fortunoff store from the 1960s. Over the course of its now-100-year history, Fortunoff Fine Jewelry has seen many changes. (Photo courtesy of Fortunoff Fine Jewelry)

Fortunoff Fine Jewelry has changed zip codes, platforms and commodities offered over its now 100-year history. But the mission has remained constant: to offer great products and high-quality service.

“I’m lucky enough to have a team of people who have been with me for decades who really understand the Fortunoff quality and the level of service that we like to give to people,” President and CEO Esther Fortunoff said. “Even though it’s a much smaller business, we give excellent customer service and meet every request.”

Fortunoff Fine Jewelry became an e-commerce-only operation in January 2021. Fortunoff continues to host extensive connections to renowned gemstone and diamond wholesalers, designers and artisans. They offer shoppers the opportunity to directly check a curated range of excellent finished fine jewelry or to get sketch ideas for handmade jewelry.

Esther’s cousins also own and operate a chain of outdoor furniture shops under the Fortunoff name.

Fortunoff’s story dates back to 1922. Esther’s grandparents, Max and Clara Fortunoff, began in Brooklyn with a pushcart full of pots and pans. It grew into a general store with a focus on kitchenware.

Eventually, the lone Brooklyn store transformed into a vast complex with eight stores within a two-block radius. But once Helene and Alan, Esther’s parents, undertook fine jewelry, the store rose to fame.

The business expanded to the suburbs of Long Island, New Jersey and Westchester in the 1960s, following their consumers. Fortunoff added six new stores to the tri-state area during the following 50 years, including their Westbury location, which the family considered a high point.

“It was a good location because of the density of the population and the roads,” said Esther. “Also, because they found the right sort of bankers and people who thought that it was a good idea and it was a very central location.”

In the 1970s Fortunoff opened a specialty jewelry store in Manhattan.

The beginning of the 21st century spelled financial difficulties for Fortunoff. Following two failed private equity groups’ ownership, the then-20-store chain collapsed in 2009, after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy twice.

After the second filing, Esther and her brother David, who is no longer involved, purchased the Fortunoff name. She launched a Westbury jeweler location in 2014. However, it closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunoff’s Fine Jewelry made the full-time move online Jan. 3, 2021.

Esther said online shopping would not have been conceivable 50 years ago. But she added many people now have switched from in-person to online buying.

“[The internet] changed everything,” she said. “We tried to adapt to that and I’m still adapting to it because my business now is basically 90% online. It’s learning different skills and also adapting to what younger generations of people want to wear and their tastes and all that.”

But through all the hardships, the Fortunoff name still stands. Esther Fortunoff said that hitting 100 years as a business is an amazing feeling — one that represents enduring wars and depressions.

“When I think back on what my grandparents started in 1922, with just pots and pans and home necessities,” said Esther. “They weathered the depression, luckily, because they had things that pretty much everyone needed. I feel like our story is one of being able to adapt to change, pivot and move with the times.”

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