Monday, February 01, 2010

Fortunoff Resurrection Impending

Fortunoff's, which was a landmark housewares and jewelery store in the New York City metro area entered bankruptcy last year and ceased doing business.

Well, a bunch of former Fortunoff executives, including Isadore Mayrock who was related to founder Max Fortunoff, and a Texas based patio furniture business is bringing back the Fortunoff store name and will be opening stores in several areas around the region. It will focus exclusively on patio furniture and Christmas decorations depending on time of year.
Merkur, a Fortunoff merchandising executive for 39 years, created Furniture concepts with another former Fortunoff executive, Bernard Sensale. Isidore Mayrock, a member of the Fortunoff founding family, and David Barish, president of The Chair King, a Houston-based chain of 18 stores, signed on as investors. Merkur and Sensale also worked out a deal with the Fortunoff family to license the Fortunoff Backyard Store name, and to use a database of former Fortunoff customers.

Two of the seven stores will open in their former locations. Fortunoff liquidated all of its stores in early 2009, after filing for bankruptcy for the second time in two years. Merkur said the company plans to open an additional three to five stores a year going forward.

The Totowa store, located on Route 46 in a 12,000-square-foot former Coconuts music store, is scheduled to open Saturday. The Paramus store is expected to open Feb. 9. The 19,000-square-foot Paramus site is located directly across Route 17 from the former Fortunoff Backyard Store, in a building that recently housed a Harrow’s furniture store.

There will be four Backyard Stores in New Jersey, and three on Long Island. The other New Jersey locations will be in Eatontown and Menlo Park.

Merkur said the company has been able to rehire close to 70 former Fortunoff employees for the new venture. All seven stores will be headed by the same managers who formerly worked at the backyard stores near the new locations.

Barish of The Chair King said he didn’t hesitate when offered a chance to invest in a new Fortunoff backyard chain.

“Marty Merkur and I have known each other for at least 20 years,” said Barish. “When the opportunity became available to bring [Fortunoff Backyard Store] back, he called me and we jumped on it because we knew the team, we knew the name, we knew the potential of the marketplace.”

Merkur said the Fortunoff patio business, at its peak in 2007-2008 with 18 stores selling outdoor furniture, was an $80 million venture. Barish said the new concept should be equally successful.
Best of all, they'll be hiring back 70 former employees of the company. The new company website is at

The Paramus location is across from their prior location on Rt. 17, in a space previously occupied by Harrows - another long running company that fell on hard times and went bankrupt. It is in the process of trying to resurrect its brand and will be launching another store in a new location somewhere in Paramus.

Fortunoff's also appears to be following a route taken by shoe store Marty's, which also had undergone bankruptcy and liquidation, followed by rebirth in some of its former locations after eliminating its debt and liabilities. We'll see if this iteration is more successful.

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