Gary Reses is still bullish on Kings Highway, even though he closed the door to his Haddonfield gift shop Sunday for the last time.
Reses, 49, the co-owner of Forever Young, the former Jamaican Me Crazy, is reinventing his business from a gift shop to a young-adult home and apparel store on the campus of Rowan University in Glassboro. He and his wife, Nina, had run their Haddonfield shop for the past 11 years.
Reses said his move says more about the opportunity at Rowan than the business climate in Haddonfield.
"If it wasn't for this project and this opportunity, we wouldn't be leaving," he said. "We did very well here for 11 years. We just have this unique opportunity."
Reses said Rowan and Glassboro are pouring $300 million into a new project to connect the campus with the downtown. His store will be part of a multi-use development of stores, restaurants, classrooms and a hotel.
Forever Young is the fourth prominent shop to close on Haddonfield's key Kings Highway business district over the last month. It joins Frank's Men's Hair Styling, which shuttered its shop after 31 years last month, and Wiseley Jewelry, which also closed after a more than 30-year run. Hersport, a woman's apparel shop, closed last month and moved to a larger location in Cherry Hill.
Reses, a borough resident and a member of the Partnership for Haddonfield, the local business improvement district, said Kings Highway remains a vibrant shopping destination.
"I understand the other long-term stores that are leaving also had similarly unique circumstances behind their moves and it wasn't necessarily a reflection of what's going on here," he said. "And with us, the timing makes it look interesting, but I think it's just a coincidence."
Reses hopes to continue as a member of the PfH, which is funded by a tax on local businesses. He has a seat on the board as a resident.
"It's a great shopping town, a great place to do business," Reses said of Haddonfield. "You have a steady stream of customers of all ages. It's a great place to be."
Recent additions to Kings Highway include an expansion of the Summit Sampler home furnishing shop; Wear Your Spirit for Humanity, a clothing store; and Saxbys coffee shop, which is due to open soon.