FLEMINGTON, NJ - One of Hunterdon’s most storied and iconic stores is closing up shop and going out of business. Flemington Furs announced its closing in a letter to its customers.
“After 98 years of being a family held business, we will be closing our doors and liquidating our entire inventory,” the letter states. It also promotes the store’s “final sale ... no returns or exchanges.”
The store was originally to be an anchor tenant in Jack Cust’s Courthouse Square project that includes the Union Hotel, which received Planning Board approval in October.
Cust said he didn’t have any official information about the store going out of business.
“We were informed last year that they changed their intention to be a tenant” in the Courthouse Square project, Cust said. “Since we downsized the retail space from the original plan of 50,000 square feet to the current plan of 30,000 square feet, it had no impact to our development.”
According to the Hunterdon Chamber of Commerce, Flemington Furs was founded in the 1920s in the same location where it is today. The county’s Historical Society reports that the Spring Street store was once the location of the Hunterdon County Library.
Originally, the Flemington Furs location was only a fur factory. In the 1950s, owner Sid Benjamin added a showroom, which drew customers to Flemington from New York City and beyond. The company started to diversify in the 1980s and became a part owner of Liberty Village Premium Outlets.
Flemington Furs was always privately held and the Benjamin family sold its interest in the company years ago. The property remained under family ownership, however, until Cust acquired it last year.
“We had a great business,” said Bobby Benjamin, Sid’s son and a fourth-generation former owner. “The greatest part was working with my dad.”
The company was always known for its personal service. Its telephone – even today – was always answered by a friendly human, never an automated device. And its customers, as its owners, often spanned generations.
Benjamin said many credit his dad with helping to put Flemington on the map. The average customer travelled 45 minutes to get to the store, he said, often coming from Monmouth and Somerset counties in New Jersey as well as New York City.
Those who came to shop the store once found plenty to do once they arrived.
“There was Flemington Cut Glass and Liberty Village,” Benjamin said. As those businesses faded, Benjamin often found himself responding to customer requests for directions to Lambertville, something he found disappointing.
Customers have less free time today than was once the case, Benjamin said, so when they travel to a destination store, they also expect to find other things to do there.
But Benjamin remains optimistic. “There are many great businesses in Flemington,” he said. “What they need is a catalyst.” He thinks Cust’s Courthouse Square project – which would include space for a college – could offer the borough the jump start that it needs. “I hope the project goes forward as planned,” he said.
It isn’t clear if the company’s other stores are also going out of business. It opened a Long Island store three years ago, promising its “huge selection of fine fur and luxury outerwear available in Huntington is second in North America only to Flemington's flagship store in New Jersey. Visitors will be amazed at the size of this inventory and impressed with the almost unlimited number of outerwear services available, from cold storage to repairs to full scale remodels. All handled with the level of pride you would expect from an industry leader.”
The company also has a store on Route 9 in Manalapan.
A spokesperson for Flemington Furs did not return a phone call seeking comment this morning.