A Tale of Two Kings Highways
Some thrive and others die in the boom or bust cycle of Haddonfield business.
To borrow a well-worn phrase from a classic author, it could be the best of times and the worst of times for Haddonfield businesses.
Look no further than 115 and 117 Kings Highway East to get a snapshot.
At 115, Wiseley Jewelers is going out of business after 31 years. Next door at 117, the Summit Sampler home-furnishing shop has doubled the size of its business after two years here by expanding into an adjacent store front.
Both owners say things couldn't be better and business is booming, but the future of each couldn't be more different.
Stephen Wiseley is shuttering his jewelry store and plans to move to Colorado to retire. He said he'd love to sell it, but hasn't yet.
Jan Martin has expanded her family-run, home-furnishing business on Kings Highway East and closed her flagship store in Summit, Union County. She's betting on a vibrant business climate in Haddonfield that Summit no longer offers.
Her expansion was made possible by the closing of Houshiarnejad Fine Oriental Rugs, which shuttered earlier this year after 25 years. Houshiarnejad had once occupied the dual storefront that now features Summit Sampler.
Martin thinks her success is based on affordable merchandise.
"Here's the difference I see," Martin said. "Jewelry is an investment. A tiny little box can cost thousands of dollars. People aren't making those decisions lightly. We sell rugs here, but the rugs I sell are an accessory. It's not an investment. When they get to the point where they look at an item and it cost quite a bit of money, they're a little reluctant to pull the trigger."
Tough times for jewelers
Wiseley is the fourth jeweler to close on Kings Highway this year, joining Yampell's, Cabnet Goldsmiths and Biefield's. Sam Yampell and his assistant Sam Temple have returned to Kings Highway at Haddonfield Fine Jewelers, a new business he does not own. Yampell's Jewelers had operated on Kings Highway for 83 years before financial difficulties shut them down in January.
Wiseley said recently that his closing is a "lifestyle" choice.
"We've had a strong year," he said. "A couple of years ago things were rough, but we're going out on top."
Service businesses continue to be strong in Haddonfield, featuring barbershops, hair and nail salons and specialty shops like Bombshell Pinups, which produces photos in classic 1940s-style pinup-girl poses. Sweet T's bakery also recently moved across Kings Court after about a year in business to a 1,200-square-foot space that's three times the size of its previous shop.
Wiseley's son, Jason, is the owner of the Bread Board Plus restaurant here on Haddon Avenue.
But future service businesses could be curbed by a new borough ordinance restricting operation along a prime stretch of Kings Highway near Summit Sampler and Wiseley's.
But others thrive
Still, borough storefronts tend to not stay vacant long.
Affordability and convenience seem to be keys to success in Haddonfield's pricey retail space. Mahmaud Houshiarnejad, the Persian rug store owner who once occupied 117 Kings Highway East, said his rent was $25,000 a month for the entire space Summit Sampler occupies.
Jan Martin said her landlord, Gerald Levin, has been "really good to us. He understands it's a tough economy."
She said her rent is under $25,000 monthly. Martin also got an $8,200 grant for expansion cost from the Partnership for Haddonfield, the borough's tax-funded business improvement district. She also received a $19,800 PfH retention grant when the business first opened.
"My goal here, like in Summit, is to have a lifestyle store," she said. "I think down here it has more energy, it's fresh. I thought we had more opportunity here."