There may be no location in Manhattan that has undergone as many twists and turns as the former church on Sixth Avenue once known as the nightlcub Limelight. In past decade, we have seen it go from the last gasps of its infamous club incarnation, to a seedy closeout location, to its current life as a would-be upscale shopping arcade.
It's no secret that the Limelight Marketplace has been a bust for the vendors who ventured to take space inside the famous building. All reports point to initial interest from shoppers that could not be sustained. The few recognizable vendors have abandoned the complex, and even now owner Jack Menashe is telling the Wall Street Journal that he will be reconfiguring the space once again —this time as a single freestanding boutique that he will run himself. Non-food vendors will be leaving, and Menashe will remove the booths and stalls to open up the original church space. Restaurants like Grimaldi's and Cross Bar from Todd English will remain, which is a good thing, because they both only just opened. The new store, still to be called "Limelight" is expected to be ready in September.
We wish him the best of luck. He will need it.
On the surface, this looks like a good solution to a project that didn't work out as well as one might have hoped. Mr. Menashe tells the Journal that the new department store concept will be "not unlike Barneys," an ambitious goal, considering that his previous retail ventures include Bang Bang, which many may remember as a chain of boutiques selling flashy, inexpensive clubwear which ultimately fell victim to larger chains like H&M and Forever 21, and Lounge, a larger, more ambitious store in SoHo which initially found success with the premium denim explosion of the last decade, but was unable to keep up with more fashion forward stores like Scoop and Intermix. It eventually folded after a seemingly endless closing sale that dismayed customers with inflated prices that misrepresented the kind of discount merchandise was really selling for. Eventually, when he lost control of the SoHo location, Menashe moved the closeouts to the Limelight space, beginning his association with the location.
So, now Menashe is going to turn the failed mini-mall into a single, larger store that will sell brands like Bed Stu, PRPS, Nudie Jeans and James Perse.
Sounds a lot like Lounge.
He has hired a buyer from Googie's Retail in Aspen Colorado, which, as far as we can tell, is a casual boutique connected to a retro-style diner. It sounds like an earlier version of Boogie's that some New Yorkers may remember from about 20 years ago on Lexington Avenue near Bloomingdale's. A Swiss-based retail consultant has also been hired to develop the concept in a scant three or four months. "One of the things we're starting to do is to add a level of sophisticatedness to it, if that's a word," Menashe tells the Journal.
Seriously that's a quote.
We really hope Mr. Menashe is finally able to turn Limelight into something terrific, but there's not alot in his recent past to suggest that he is up to the task. the main problem, however, is not necessarily his taste level ans retailing skills, but ocation, location, location. Limelight is smack in the middle of a stretch of big box retailers like Bed Bath and Beyond, The Container Store and Sports Authority. It is not the West Village, SoHo or the Meatpacking District, and it is a long block away from the lower Fifth Avenue Flatiron shopping strip that includes Paul Smith, Intermix and J.Crew. If you ask us, the only thing to do with Limelight is to turn it back into what it was successful as in the first place, a nightclub.
But that would just make too much sense.
Doing a Makeover in the 'Limelight' by Dana Rubinstein (Wall Street Journal)
Is Limelight Marketplace Fizzling? (4-18-2011)
Lounge Meets Its End In The Limelight (1-26-2009)