When humble, homey Bleecker Street was swiftly transformed into a white-hot fashion shopping destination in the early 2000s, A lot of people pointed their fingers at designer Marc Jacobs. He was blamed for being the primary interloper in the neighborhood which saw longstanding and beloved antique shops pushed off the street —and in many cases out of business— in favor of the shiny designer boutiques that flooded the formerly genteel destination in his wake. Eventually, Jacobs saw his neighborhood store count climb with a main women's shop, a men's shop, an accessories shop, a shop for his recently launched beauty line, a children's shop and, finally, a curated book shop. Often, these stores would switch places, but the designer seemed to prefer the concept of a cluster of smaller stores within the space of a couple of blocks as opposed to the more traditional, larger brand palace flagship that most of his colleagues seem to prefer.
Now it's 2016, however, and the designer has quietly trimmed his roster of retail shops down to three including the BookMarc book shop, the Little Marc children's shop (pictured below) and one single women's apparel and accessory collection shop which itself was once a combination of two side by side units, and has now been pared down to the single store space on the corner of Bleecker and West 11th Street (pictured above). It's not totally surprising that the designer's store count has shrunken. Last year he made the decision to streamline his labels, folding the popular Marc by Marc Jacobs contemporary line into the main Marc Jacobs brand which suggested that a few changes were in order as a result. A lovely retail location at the corner of Bank and West 4th Streets that had at times been a men's store and an accessory store was given over to the Canadian brand Want Les Essentials de la Vie for its flagship boutique. An always undersized space on Bleecker that had been an on-and-off men's store over the years was quietly relinquished shortly after that, but we just discovered that an erstwhile accessories location at the corner of Bleecker and Perry Streets that was converted to launch the beauty line has also recently closed (The beauty collection itself remains a going concern that has expanded from its exclusive launch through Sephora into major department stores.)
So what is the strategy here? Is it sign of doom for the reorganizing label, or, is it simply an indication that the designer is rethinking his retail plan, at least in New York. While his original Collection flagship on Mercer Street in SoHo is currently being revamped with a temporary location taking its place on Prince Street, Jacobs and, more prominently, his business partner Robert Duffy have been teasing an uptown flagship boutique for years, even going so far as to name specific locations where it would open without ever officially closing on a lease deal. Bleecker Street's glow has dimmed a bit over the past few seasons. Just a few years ago, it was rare to see a retail space sit empty on Bleecker street for very long, but as more recent leases turn over, shoppers are seeing more and more empty storefronts there waiting for someone to pay the skyrocketing rents that were once easy for the neighborhood to demand. Perhaps Jacobs has finally decided to focus his retail resources on higher profile locations as his business enters a more mature phase. Could the smaller shops be closing in favor of that long promised uptown flagship?
WEST VILLAGE INS & OUTS:
Paul Smith Is In
Mulberry, Black Fleece & Marc Jacobs Men's Are Out On Bleecker
Mulberry, Black Fleece & Marc Jacobs Men's Are Out On Bleecker
Remember when Bleecker Street was such a hot retail address that the older stores were being pushed out and replaced with new designer boutiques at a breakneck pace?
Well, that's over.
As luxury labels retrench in the face of economic uncertainty, Bleecker street is suddenly looking less like a hotspot and more like a tony neighborhood in a holding pattern, perhaps a couple of years behind the neighboring Meatpacking District where once precious retail space is now available in greater abundance. Since the Holiday season, A few more Bleecker Street storefronts have gone empty. Mulberry has quietly exited its outpost at 387 Bleecker leaving it with larger stores on both Madison Avenue and Spring Street in SoHo. Perhaps a tiny store that benefited from Bleecker Street's hotspot-of-the-moment glamor is no longer such an imperative when there are other bigger stores in more heavily trafficked neighborhoods with more potential for sales volume and brand visibility.
Mulberry is not the only company reconsidering its retail strategies. Marc Jacobs is in still the midst of re-inventing his own label. Since the Marc by Marc Jacobs label that made up most of his Bleecker Street stores' offerings has been discontinued, his West Village colony of shops is in a transition of its own. It was always a kind of free-flowing arrangement with stores regularly switching places. With Want Les Essentials de la Vie having already having taken over one of the designer's former shops, the latest branch to bite to the dust is the teeny tiny men's store whose windows are now blacked out. That leaves Jacobs with only his original shop at 403/405 Bleecker, Bookmarc across the street at #400 and the beauty store at #385, which is still a strong showing, but we are still wondering how things will settle retail wise for Marc. His men's store has always been problematic. Having bounced around from one of Jacobs' West Village locations to another, it always seemed to wind up in the same stall-like space that could only hold a few customers at a time and seemed like a poor setting for one of America's premier designers to present his collections. Part of this probably results from the fact that Jacobs has been candid over the years about his personal disinterest in menswear as a designer. He rarely if ever wears his own brand, preferring more attention getting outfits from labels like Comme des Garçons and most recently being very vocal about buying copious amounts of Alessandro Michele's first Gucci collection. His lack of interest is reflected at retail where the label has little traction in menswear, and industry watchers are wondering if the men's division has many more seasons left at all without stronger direction. Closing its store couldn't be seen as a sign of faith in the division.
While once it was incredibly difficult for a retailer to even acquire a space on Bleecker Street in its most desirable stretch between Christoper Street and Hudson Street, now a prospective retailer has something of a selection. Since Brooks Brothers has sadly discontinued its Thom Browne designed Black Fleece collection, its boutique at 351 Bleecker at the corner of West 10th Street has also been shuttered leaving another prime spot open, and more space at 345 Bleecker will be available soon as Comptoir des Cotonniers has posted a closing notice in the window of its unit there. In addition, the empty where the neighborhood favorite Manatus Restaurant once served up classic diner fare is still empty after it was forced out nearly two years ago in hopes of attracting a higher paying tenant who has yet to show up.
It's not all bad news, however. As promised, Paul Smith has opened up a temporary store at 357 Bleecker Street (pictured above) to replace his original Flatiron store. As reported, it's smaller than the shuttered lower Fifth Avenue boutique, but Smith promises a bigger permanent unit on the way. So far the store is only carrying early Spring deliveries heavy on his lower priced label, PS. Perhaps even after a more impressive space presents itself, Smith, who has also streamlined his profusion of labels, should consider hanging on to the Bleecker Street store as a PS-only shop. It would fit in perfectly with the street's more recent focus on slightly more accessible designer labels, and it would fill up a shop that might otherwise not find a tenant a swiftly as it might have a few years ago.
See a gallery of closing notices after the jump.
The Flatiron District will be dealt a blow next week when the Paul Smith boutique at 108 Fifth Avenue (pictured above) permanently closes its doors and moves to a temporary space on Bleecker Street in the West Village. While the designer has a flagship store in SoHo, a Williamsburg location and a new outpost at Brookfield Place in the Financial District, the Fifth Avenue store was Smith's first in New York opening in 1987. It was one of the first designer stores in the neighborhood and, along with Emporio Armani on the other side of 16th Street (now a closed Joe Fresh), established Fifth Avenue between 23rd and 14th Streets as a bona fide shopping destination that seemed to be geared more toward downtown dwelling New Yorkers than tourists or bridge-and-tunnel shoppers. Even though the neighborhood eventually became more of a destination for chain stores that made it something of a mall without the mall (Gap, Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, H&M, Victoria's Secret etc.), The Paul Smith boutique maintained its place as the high-end lynchpin for the neighborhood for nearly 30 years, even expanding downstairs.
Smith won't miss a beat, however. As clearly stipulated in the window (pictured below) the Bleecker Street store will open on Monday It is a more compact 1,000 square feet to Fifth Avenue's 1,800, but it is technically a temporary location to serve until a more suitable permanent spot is found. Where it will ultimately land remains to be seen, but the hands-on designer has been known to be extremely picky about where he places his boutiques, so wherever it is, expect it to be perfectly chosen all in good time.
Holiday shopping season is almost upon us, which is the perfect time for any number of companies to get their feet wet in New York's daunting retail scene with pop-up stores. There is possibly no better way to gauge customer interest and get some crucial brand awareness than to have a temporary store on one of the city's high-profile shopping streets. here's a few to look out for with plenty more to come.
The Tie Bar is making a return appearance in the West Village at 411 Bleecker Street with an elegant shop already open and filled with impossibly inexpensive furnishings (pictured above). While even mid-range designer ties can reliably cost more than $100, The Tie Bar's neckwear offerings start at about $19 and rarely hit north of $30. Socks, belts, suspenders and, yes, actual tie bars and clips are all similarly priced, in a setting that could easily double for a much more expensive shop. The former James Perse women's store has been transformed into a genial haberdashery that will be open through the Holidays until January leaving plenty of timer any guy to get himself properly turned out for any occasion.
This week, look for upscale athletic brand Spyder's pop-up store at 68 Greene Street in SoHo to open its doors. We aren't sure exactly how long this one will be with us, but they are bringing the U.S. Ski Team to their opening party, so expect it to be a must-visit destination for the city's serious winter sports men and women while it lasts.
On November 11th, that white elephant at 650 Fifth Avenue that used to be the Juicy Couture flagship store (pictured at right) will finally get a decidedly less glitzy occupant as Lands' End moves in for for an extended stay through the end of January. While the longtime mail-order favorite has a small fleet of retail stores as well as a diminishing count of in-store shops in former parent company Sears stores, it has never had a flagship-sized store on this scale in a market like New York. After having been spun off from its flailing parent, Lands' End has been staffing up with some impressive hires including key executives with merchandising experience at places like Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman and J.Crew. Don't look for the brand to go all haute luxe right away, but an updated fashion image is in the offering. The brand has poached noted menswear designer Ian Velardi away from Bonobos as design director, and we already know he has a gift for adding a modern edge to traditional clothing. If things work out well enough, there's a hint that Lands' End may stay past January depending on the response from Holiday shoppers.
Finally, back own Bleecker Street, there's a bit of a pop-up mystery brewing. The windows at Marc Jacobs' teeny tiny men's store at 382 Bleecker Street have just been blacked out, leaving a message that reads, "Marc by Marc Jacobs Pop-Up Opening August 30th". We all know by now that the Marc by Marc Jacobs label will be history after this season as the line gets re-absorbed by a newly expanded main Marc Jacobs collection. Is the shop staging a final fare-well sale or a greatest hits collection? At the very least, one has to wonder how you can call your own longtime store a pop-up shop? We'll find out on Friday.
In perhaps a new direction for Bleecker Street, the French luxury silver and tabletop brand Chrostofle is opening a small but undoubtedly elegant shop at no. 396 (pictured above), a new space reconfigured to create a retail shop in what was formerly a ground-floor apartment. We aren't exactly sure when the store's official opening is, but it appears that the company has already held a few preview events, and a peek through the sides of the window reveals that the store is fully stocked with the tabletop silver and holloware that Christofle is known for.
For a shopping stretch that has become known mainly for designer fashion, the new store has a whiff of a throwback to Bleecker Street's previous incarnation when it was a destination for fine antiques and luxurious home furnishings. But then the designers came and, well, you know...
Interestingly, for the first time in a while, there is suddenly an abundance of available space on the prized stretch of Bleecker Street between Christoper and Hudson Streets. As it happens, the new Christofle store is currently flaked by the empty former homes of Lulu Guinness and Jack Spade. Ten years after most of the street's longtime independent tenants were ousted in favor of more glamorous fashion brands, leases are coming up for renewal at dramatically increased rents, but where available storefronts were once snapped up as fast as they came up, they now linger. Aside form the Guinness and Spade sites, James Perse took over the large, defunct Juicy Couture store, leaving his previous two storefronts still wanting inhabitants. The former Jean Michel Cazabat turned ASH shoe store is now fully available, and the Manatus restaurant whose ejection bitterly disappointed neighborhood residents, has seen no one take over its space over a year after its departure. Perhaps the new Christofle store is signaling a broader mix of merchants for the West Village, but perhaps an ever richer one.
A stroll down Bleecker Street brought some news to The Shophound's eye this afternoon. We had been wondering who was going to wind up in the highly desirable and spacious corner store that Juicy Couture left vacant at no. 368 early last year, and it turns out that longtime Bleecker Street denizen James Perse is moving in (pictured above). Perse has maintained two separate men's and women's stores on Bleecker for several years now, and it is currently unclear whether he will be moving one or both stores into the bigger space, or if he will be using it for another concept entirely. We won't have to wait for long to find out. The windows are promising a February opening.
A few steps uptown, we discovered that Jimmy Choo has abandoned the West Village, for now at least. In its place, however designer Tomas Maier is bringing his second Manhattan store to No. 407 (pictured below). While his first, which opened just a few months ago on Madison Avenue, is well located to serve tourists and stylish East Siders, this new one will be perfectly positioned to bring Maier's laid-back chic to the downtowners who won't travel north of 23rd Street. No opening date has been announce, but it's not a huge store, and we are guessing it will be ready for shoppers sometime in the spring.
EYE ON THE WINDOWS:
New Shops For Sisley Cosmetics,
Fly London & Crow Philosophy
Set For The West Village
Fly London & Crow Philosophy
Set For The West Village
Amongst the disturbing abundance of empty storefronts downtown, Shoppers will be relieved to see at least a few of them being filled in the coming months. There are a lot of new stores set to hit the city this Fall, but a stroll around the West Village last week brought three to The Shophound's attention.
The first, on Bleecker Street, is the former Kurt Geiger shop at no. 375 which has swiftly been replaced by another British footwear brand, Fly London. As far as we can tell, this is the brand's first U.S. store, though the label will be familiar to shoppers. You won't see anything like the previous tenant's elegant pumps and boots there, however. Fly's stock in trade is a funkier, chunkier (and substantially less expensive) street style that frankly seems more suited to the mostly extinct 8th Street shoe stores of years past than the more designer driven offerings that will surround it. Whether this is a new direction for Bleecker Street remains to be seen.
Bleecker is also getting another new cosmetics boutique that falls firmly in the high end. French luxury makeup and treatment brand Sisley Paris (not to be confused with the Benetton-owned clothing brand of the same name) is taking over Freemans Sporting Club's former digs at No. 343. The window promises a Holiday opening, so pricey skin care fans will have to wait a few months for this one.
Finally, a short walk over to the Meatpacking District reveals the impending arrival of a previously unheard of men's store called Crow Philosophy at 15 Gansevoort Street near Hudson Street (most recently the home of Yoyamart). Set for a Fall opening, this shop will showcase the line's debut collection designed by fashion industry veteran Tom Puls featuring sophisticated sportswear in dark shades with luxurious leather touches. Launching a new brand with a New York boutique can be a costly gamble, but the potential rewards can be high if everything falls into place. See the Gallery above for a look at the soon-to-open storefronts.
There has been plenty of fallout from the recent sale of the immense fashion conglomerate Jones Apparel Group to private equity firm Sycamore Partners, but one of most prominent effects has been the spinning off of several former Jones brands into independent firms. One of them, popular London based shoe brand Kurt Geiger, was only acquired by Jones in 2011, and made a major statement about its plans for the as yet untapped U.S. market by opening a showcase of a store at 375 Bleecker Street about a year and a half ago in a shop that had most recently housed a few ill fated attempts by Tommy Hilfiger to develop new retail concepts. It looks like Kurt Geiger, which recently became an independent company through a management buyout from Sycamore, is now adjusting its own plans for the U.S. While no specific announcements have been made, the prominent "For Lease" sign in the window makes it clear that the brand is, at the very least, not long for Bleecker Street. Whether it is moving the store to a more prominent location or simply putting its entire U.S. retail plan on hold for the moment is unclear, but it does put Bleecker Street in the same category as so many other supposedly hot Manhattan shopping neighborhoods that suddenly have a surplus of retail space available. With Geiger's Departure, Juicy Couture's prominently empty corner store, as well as the closed Manatus restaurant and several other vacant stores on its same block, There is a lot of space available. Now where are the retailers who are willing to pay the not inconsiderable rent it will cost them to set up shop there?
The store is indeed closing. According to our friends at Racked, Kurt Geiger is shutting down all of its freestanding stores in the U.S. The California units are already closed, and the Bleecker Street location is the only one that remains open —but only for the moment.
Bleecker Street will be a little bit more crowded this weekend as the Marc Jacobs Beauty store will be providing free manicures from Noon to 8 PM starting now until Sunday. See a selection of colors above, and pick the one that suits you best. If Esquire's SoHo Mega-Pop-Up is not your cup of tea, then perhaps this sort of giveaway may be more in your wheelhouse —or go to both! It's the 21st Century after all, and seeing as how Marc is the sort of designer who routinely wears kilts and famously attended the Met Ball in a transparent lace dress, we're pretty sure that a manicure will be offered to any and all comers.
If large parts of Manhattan are suffering from too much available retail real estate, than there are still a few other streets where stores do not sit empty for too long. Bleecker Street between Christopher and Bank Streets in the West Village has been one of them, but even there, a few stores are out of commission or undergoing transition. The theory on this street has recently been that any time a retail space becomes available, Marc Jacobs will swoop in and take it over, but even he may have maxed out on the West Village as his company turns its eye to larger stores in other Manhattan neighborhoods. There are some spaces coming up that Marc may not be as quick to absorb. For starters, the glamorous Jean-Michel Cazabat shoe boutique is now an ASH shoes sale pop-up store.
Is Cazabat out of business?
You can still buy his shoes at Barneys and other stores, but you may notice that his prices have jumped. The designer has moved his production back to Italy from China, which also pushed him back into the luxury category, precipitating a split from his backers who also own the Ash brand and have smoothly moved it into the Bleecker Street space —for the moment, at least.
Corporate changes have had an effect on several other Bleecker Street stores as well. Kurt Geiger's management has bought the company out from parent Jones Group which is currently being dismantled piece by piece, so that shoe store has remained in place. Juicy Couture, however, has been sold and and has exited its sizable store (pictured below) which remains under the control of former parent Kate Spade & Co. (formerly Fifth & Pacific, formerly Liz Claiborne & Co.). Will Kate move in? It seems like too good of a space to pass up, but for now, the sign in the window says the empty store is available. A few blocks away, brother shop Jack Spade is covered in green painted plywood, but its website lists it as temporarily under renovation, so we expect it to return soon enough.
Sadly, one well liked store seems to be gone from Bleecker for good. Freeman's Sporting Club appears to have exited its store at no. 343. Though it is still listed on the website, the shop is empty and available. FSC had a challenging time in the West Village. It's first location on the corner of Bleecker and Christopher streets had to be moved with little notice shortly after opening when the building was declared structurally unsafe —always a bummer. Happily, the store was able to swiftly move half a block to 343 where a temporary store eventually became a permanent outpost. That space, however, is now empty and available. East of Christopher Street, there are more vacancies including the former J.A.C.H.S. boutique*. J.Press York Street sells a label which is reportedly being discontinued by the uber-traditional menswear retailer. Will J.Press fill it with a selection from its classic assortments this Fall? As its flagship is still under an extended renovation, it would give its loyal New York customers a local place to shop the brand albeit in an inconvenient location, though it's more likely that the space will be marketed to other retailers. How long some of these spaces take to be filled will say a lot about Bleecker Street's status to retailers in the coming months. If the are leased quickly, then the stretch remains near the top of Manhattan's most desirable shopping locations, but if we start to see the kind of vacancies that are plaguing the Upper East Side and the nearby Meatpacking District, then Bleecker's heyday may be coming to an end. Have a look as some of these storefronts in the gallery below.
*Correction: The J.A.C.H.S. Store is not in fact closed and is open for business. We mistook it for different empty store on the same block.