After calling New York home to his namesake business for three decades, Mish Tworkowski has closed his Manhattan locations on Bond Street and headed south to Florida, Phipps Plaza in Palm Beach precisely. While it would be easy to attribute this move to Covid-19, it was a long time in the making, according to the jeweler.
“Joseph Singer, my life and business partner, and I love the idea of change. It wasn’t necessarily only a business decision,” explains Tworkowski over a phone call from Palm Beach. He and Singer had a house there for years and started exploring the idea in 2018 before Covid upended the business-as-usual model many small enterprises relied on. “We started looking at spaces, but there was never any pressure because they weren’t available until around the time the New York ended,” he notes.
Moreover, he attributes the move to the almost four months spent in Millbrook, NY he and his partner spent during the pandemic. “It wasn’t only a business decision but also a personal one.,” he explains. Being in upstate surrounded by nature daily allowed for some peaceful quiet time to reflect on decisions rather than ‘going from a-to-b on automatic’ as was common running the business day-to-day in New York. “Covid allowed for us to make good, solid business decisions that also make for happy lives,” he adds. Besides, Tworkowski is a gardener who draws inspiration from nature. “I love the idea of gardening year-round, being inspired by the colors and light on the flowers.”
Working with local Sotheby’s broker Jeff Cloninger to discover the commercial properties, the pair was especially drawn to the area around the historical Phipps Plaza. The square housed note-worthy architects of the neighborhood, such as Addison Mizner, responsible for the Mediterranean Revival style in South Florida, and John Volk. They settled in a building that boasted the first department store in Palm Beach and housed Bonwit Teller, Brook Brothers, and others in the past hundred years.
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“Many believe Palm Beach to be the most beautiful city in the United States,” he said, noting the strict zoning laws have helped preserve the look of the tiny island. “It has a high-end clientele with some of the most expensive real estate, but it’s cultural and educational as well. Palm Beach check all those boxes,” he notes.
Cloninger—Senior Global Real Estate Advisor for Sotheby’s International Realty, Palm Beach Brokerage—introduced them to commercial properties. Having worked in the area for over 25 years, he recently noticed a shift. “The Palm Beach commercial scene has experienced a giant push forward in the last couple of years. Over the decades, retailers and galleries from NYC, the Hamptons, and Greenwich, CT wanted to have an adjunct location here to supplement primary locations in the Northeast,” Cloninger explains, adding, “What’s changed is these same companies are now looking at Palm Beach as a primary market for their retail operations, a change from even a few years ago. This is because many of their customers consider Palm Beach their primary residence and spend more time here than just the traditional winter season.” He attributes this residential shift to several factors; the tax brackets of the Northeast, the beauty and allure of year-round life in Palm Beach, and the realities Covid brought to the forefront. “These have all blended to make Palm Beach much more than its old title ‘America’s Winter Capital,'” says Cloninger.
According to the jeweler, the historic Phipps Plaza, resembles a London Square. It’s also seeing a bit of a reboot thanks to the jeweler. Opening soon will be the Carriage House dinner club akin to Annabel’s in London, housed in buildings by Mizner and another famous Palm Beach Maurice Fatio. The store was designed by Singer, who worked with local architect Smith Kellogg to execute according to preservation guidelines. It was decorated by New York City interior designer Katie Ridder.
Tworkowski came with a knowledge of the area’s rich history. He and Singer have been underwriting the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach for the past ten years and participating in exhibits of jewelry and jewelry watercolors and lectures on his designs.
“We gathered a clientele there; I suppose because we felt part of the community,” had notes stressing their kindness. “Since opening, people have been dropping off Christmas gifts for us telling us they are happy we are here,” mentioning a particularly thoughtful gardening book. “Even if it’s the glamour capital, it’s a lovely small town filled with people who have the time to think about things that matter.”
On Christmas Eve, usually a busy time for jewelers, they weren’t expecting many clients in the newly opened space. However, at least 15 people came in throughout the day, and it wasn’t due to any marketing efforts. “Some we knew but not as clients; friends and clients referred the others. It was all word-of-mouth.”
Those who can’t easily pop in will now find their favorite jewelers online. After hesitating for many years, thinking it was not suitable for their business, the jeweler launched a complete e-comm website this June. The results immediately proved the decision was a wise one.
“It was old-fashioned thinking, but we aren’t old-fashioned people, so we grappled with it,” he admits. “Successful people don’t have a lot of extra time,” he says, recognizing their clients were everywhere, “We realized we were doing our clients a disservice when they couldn’t shop when they wanted to. The moment we launched within hours, we had 5 or 6 sales from California.”
It helped that the Strawberry Flower collection inspired from time in Millbrook resonated with the brand’s fans with its uplifting, cheerful mood. To mark the opening of Palm Beach, Mish launched the Why Knot? collection based on a weathered piece of rope found on the beach in Mauritius. In lieu of a chain, gold is formed into the shape of a rope, which makes rings, necklaces, earrings and more. One stunning piece is the one-of-a-kind Cabana charm necklace made from turquoise the designer collected over 12 years.
The jeweler will open host an official cocktail reception to celebrate the new location in late January. A portion of the Cabana Charm bracelet’s sale will benefit the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach. The Omicron variant could alter the course of the event though Tworkowski isn’t too worried. “We have a loggia attached to the building which faces Phipps Plaza so we can move the event outside,” he assures. Definitely not something possible in New York City in the depths of winter.