Michael Brown, an expert in the shrinking field of horology, shares this legacy with his daughter, Jessica Brown-Schwakoff, a gemologist.
Together, they carry the torch of M.S. Brown Jewelers, originally founded by Michael's parents, Milton and Sylvia Brown, in 1950. They claim to own the oldest jewelry store in New Jersey.
Milton, a World War II hero, moved to Wildwood from Philadelphia to start his business on Pacific Avenue. The block has been subject to a dynamic metamorphosis over the years. Some businesses like M.S. Brown Jewelers are thriving, while others are closed entirely.
"Growing up in the Wildwoods, this was the epicenter of Cape May County," Michael said. However, a lot has changed since then.
He recalls surviving urban development in the 1970s, later followed by a failed attempt to transform several blocks around Pacific Avenue into a walking mall. Even as remnants of the mall were subsequently erased, M.S. Brown Jewelers stood standing.
And now, the Brown family is in the midst of their latest challenge: the COVID-19 pandemic.
While their store doors were closed, the daddy-daughter-duo hosted live auctions on Facebook. Excited viewers could comment, "Sold," when their favorite jewelry was shown off.
Aside from simply staying in business, the Brown family decided to give back to their community.
They hosted a small food bank during shutdown, along with producing more than 300 masks for locals. In addition, they sold engraved cups to support Wildwood Catholic High School.
Now that their doors are open, M.S. Brown Jewelers continues to innovate.
For jewelry repairs, they traded torches for a laser cutter. They also use computerized engraving technology for trophies, awards, and plaques.
But no matter how advanced in technology, their guiding philosophy has never changed.
"All these years, our customers have become family. And that's how we treat them," Michael said.
70 years is quite a remarkable milestone for a small business, which yields plenty of triumphs, failures, and overall inspiring stories. Michael recalls one customer assuming the name, "Robin Hood," who decided to impromptuly purchase a wedding ring for a young couple he had never met before. It's one of many stories he recalls as generations of families return to the shop for its reputation.
It seems the heart of the late Milton Sumner Brown has never truly left the building.
To learn more about M.S. Brown Jewelers, visit their website.
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