The Columbus Circle Subway Station's Upcoming Retail Tenants Are More Chelsea Market Than MTA

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The Columbus Circle subway station has been under renovation for so long that we almost forgot that it was supposed to have shops lining the block-long underground walkway that spans Eighth Avenue from underneath the Hearst Building south of 57th Street to Time Warner Center at 58th. Today, however a list of the carefully curated tenants was released that reveals the elaborate plan to take advantage of the  90,000 people who pass through the 14,750 square foot space every day.
To be called Turnstyle, (see renderings above) the shopping complex will  include a mix of food and fashion retailers staring with a food court with seating on the southern side slated to include Ignazio’s PizzaGelato Ti AmoMeltKraft grilled cheese, Bosie Tea ParlorEllary’s Greens organic café and an unnamed cupcake shop meant to replace Magnolia Bakery which pulled out of a proposed store. Live music will also be added to the mix according to Susan Fine, the developer of the concourse who revealed the plans to the Observer. On the north end, another grab 'n go food section will bring  Dylan’s Candy Bar, Georgia’s Café and BakeryThe Nut BoxFika espresso bar,Just Falafel street food and By Suzette crepes. Connecting the food will be an "impulse buy" section expected to include Blossom Du Jour vegan fast-food, Spectre & Co. men’s accessories, Studio Manhattan handbags and accessories, Lush handmade bath products, Arth hats, Specs New York eyewear and Kit’s Underground Wine and Spirits. A lease is reportedly out for a Papyrus card shop as well.
Given the upscale improvements in the neighborhood such as The Shops at Columbus Circle and the highly anticipated Nordstrom flagship at 57th Street and Broadway with its vast luxury tower above, developers made a special effort to avoid the typical newsstand/candy store/shoe repair combination typically found in midtown subway stations. Of course, there is always the chance that no matter how affluent the commuters, sometimes all they really want or need is a newsstand, a candy shop and, most importantly, a shoe repair when they are coming and going from work. It is hoped that new stores will be opening by the end of the year, and then we will see if the Columbus Circle retail arrangement will become a template for other large subway stations throughout the city.

Slate of Hot Retailers Headed Below Ground at Columbus Circle (Commercial Observer)


Suburban Grocery Palace Wegmans Coming To Brooklyn Navy Yard

The past 20 years have brought a bonanza of grocery shopping to New York City where we once complained of having the worst grocery stores anywhere. Cramped, expensive and low in selection, New York City's grocery stores were notoriously sub-par, and city-dwellers with access to a car would regularly brag about driving to New Jersey or Long Island for real grocery shopping, but then Whole Foods arrived in Chelsea in the late 90s. Shoppers clamored to it like it was an oasis in the desert. After a few years, it had opened some of its largest stores in the chain in Manhattan, and it continues to look for suitable locations in the city. Then Trader Joe's arrived, now with five city locations, and Fairway started expanding throughout the city with stores much more efficiently designed that its still problematic original Upper West Side store. Grocery shopping is still too expensive in New York City, but at least the stores have improved in quality and size. Still, there was one holdout that suburban shoppers spoke of with reverence: Wegmans (pictured above). Often rated as the best grocery store in America, Wegman's, known for its reasonable prices and broad selection, stretches throughout the Northeast all the way down to Northern Virginia, but has bypassed the city until now. Yesterday the chain announced its first New York City store to open in 2017 as part of the redevelopment of the Brooklyn Navy Yard (rendering pictured below). Chosen in part because of its promise to prioritize hiring in the surrounding neighborhood, Wegmans emphasis on prepared foods also requires a expanded staff ensuring even more local jobs to be available. Though the 74,000 square foot store will be about 25% smaller than the average Wegman's location, and the smallest in the chain, it will still be larger than the sizable Fairway in Red Hook or the Whole Foods in Gowanus which is also quite large. We all have a couple of years to prepare, but we can already picture the crowds including Manhattanites caravanning to Brooklyn to get to Legman's. Start your shopping lists now.

Wegmans to Open at Brooklyn Navy Yard (NYTimes)


Brooklyn Fare To Add A Second Manhattan Store

It's possible that you might not have noticed that the celebrated food market and exclusive restaurant Brooklyn Fare has been operating a Manhattan location on West 37th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues. it is not a well traveled location, and that location's promised restaurant —the real draw— has yet to materialize. That makes it a fancy market in a neighborhood that might not have gotten fancy enough yet to properly support it. That shouldn't be a problem at Brooklyn Fare's next reported location. The Observer tells us that the market will take over the D'Agostino in The Archive at 666 Greenwich Street in the West Village (above). There's no opening date projected for when it will open in the 12,000 square foot space, but this time, it should have no problem attracting attention in a prominent location in an established, tony neighborhood. The real draw here, however, will be another potential restaurant. There's no shortage of fancy food stores in Manhattan, and there might be some serious complaints that the neighborhood will be losing a much needed basic supermarket. D'Agostino reportedly lost the lease through a Hurricane Sandy related paperwork misfortune that was resolved in court, so the replacement is not without some controversy.
What distinguishes the original Brooklyn Fare at the corner of Hoyt and Schermerhorn in Brooklyn is the 18-seat, Michelin Starred Chef's Table restaurant, which only books six weeks in advance exclusively for parties of two or four. The prix-fixe menu is $225 plus tax and a 20% service fee, so such a restaurant should be right at home in the West Village. Otherwise, the retail store is a very nice gourmet market, but not terribly different from many that are already operating all over Manhattan. One might even hope that a larger restaurant than the limited Brooklyn version could be in the works, but so far there has been no official word at all of just what is planned for the new location, so we will have to stay tuned for more definitive news.

Brooklyn Fare Opening Second Manhattan Location (Commercial Observer)


Can Paris' Colette Save McDonalds?

A look from the upcoming collaboration between McDonald's and Colette

Sometimes the French are inscrutable.
We all love a high-low collaboration, but most of us would draw the line when it comes to fast food. Not so for the famed Colette concept boutique in Paris. The store is teaming up with the international burger chain for a collection of clothing and accessories featuring graphic designs that were featured on a McDonald's campaign last year in by TBWA Paris. The pictograms of signature McDonald's fare like a Big Mac or French Fries are so abstracted that you might not even recognize what they are or connect them with the chain, but then there's that telltale red, yellow and white color scheme that sends us right into a line to order a serving of large fries while hoping we don't run into anyone we know.
As a fashion authority, Colette has been known to possess the ability to confer coolness upon brands that are either unknown or may have been overlooked in the past. It is the first stop for entrepreneurs looking to relaunch a revamped heritage designer brand, and retail buyers visiting Paris from around the world are still known to take notes on the store's offerings to add excitement to their own stores back home.
But will Colette be able to work its magic on McDonald's, whose business has been on a stubbornly downward trend recently as casual diners seem to have finally given up on its pedestrian burgers and even its French Fries no matter how reliably tasty they may still be. Perhaps this is an example of differing brand perception from continent to continent. While McDonalds may be seen by some as mundane and greasy here in the States, in Paris, the brand seems to be able to muster up at least enough irony or camp to be embraced by the fashion avatars at Colette. will it be enough to add sum luster to McDonald's currently dingy reputation? It's too early to tell. The line will not go on sale until May 4 through the end of the month. Americans will have their chance to order them from the store's website, but without the opportunity to add on an order of Fries —and we al know that they are the best part.

Colette Adds McDonald’s to Fashion Menu (WWD)


Look For New York's First TOMS Store To Be Mostly Coffee Bar

TOMSNolitaIt looks like the long awaited TOMS store on Elizabeth street is finally about to open any day now, after a bewilderingly long construction period for a modestly sized store. If you are expecting an endless array of the label's signature eyewear and casual shoes, however, then think again. The folks at Bowery Boogie got a peek inside, and discovered that the store will be more of a coffee bar than anything. The 1,000 square foot store is the brand's third in the U.S., and will be following the template of the others in promoting the band's responsibly produced coffee products. Sure, there will be shoes and glasses featuring the famous Toms one for one policy that donates one one shoe or eyeglass frame for each pair sold, but beverages are expected to be the focal point. The equally charitable coffee business supports clean water effort in 70 countries around the world.
Look for an opening by the weekend at 262 Elizabeth Street.

Charity-Minded Shoe Company Toms Opens a Cafe in Soho This Week (Bowery Boogie)
Is The First TOMS Store In New York Almost Ready To Open?


The Maille Mustard Boutique On Columbus Avenue Is Selling Out

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When we heard that the famous French Dijon mustard brand Maille had opened a mustard boutique on Columbus Avenue a couple of weeks ago, we though it was in interesting marketing idea for a pop-up, but wondered whether or not it was a sustainable long-term concept to devote prime real retail estate to selling a single condiment, especially one that is available in most supermarkets for around $4 a jar.
Well, It turns out that customers had no such misgivings. They saw the store, said, "Yum! Mustard!" and started buying.
We stopped in a few days after it opened and saw an elegant little shop with shelves filled with all sorts of flavored mustards in single jars and packaged into pricey gift sets along with an assortment of olive oils and vinegars —so really, more than just one condiment, the shop does offer all of the ingredients for a very expensive vinaigrette. With a tasting bar, all sorts of mustard accessories and refills on tap, the store is patterned more after a perfumery than any kind of food store. And customers are literally eating it up.
We stopped into the shop yesterday, and noticed a distinct sparseness on the shelves compared to just a week or so earlier. Many of the gift sets were completely sold out even at $40 to $60 for three or four half-sized 3.8 oz. jars, but where else are you going to find yummy flavors like bleu cheese, morel mushrooms or walnuts and white wine to name a few. Sound weird? They are not. They are indeed yummy and tempting, especially the black truffle mustard on tap, but, as one learns over time, sometimes what looks tasty on the gourmet counter gathers dust once it makes it into one's own kitchen. Or maybe it's just overkill for a turkey sandwich.
So, after visiting the mustard store, The Shophound walked a block across town to pick up some bananas at Trader Joe's and discovered a delightful new item, the "Mustard Miscellany" package of four 7 oz. jars of Dijon mustard —imported from France— featuring intriguing flavors like black currant, chablis, Provençal, and basil for a mere $6.99. No, there wasn't any bleu cheese or black truffle, and possibly our palate is not so refined as to be able to discern the difference between fancy French mustard and somewhat less fancy French mustard, but, you know, $6.99.
In a pinch, it'll do pretty damn well.

Maille New York 185 Columbus Avenue at 68th Street, Upper West Side


Crumbs Will Come Back To Life In Columbus Square And Beyond

has died.
Now, Crumbs will come back to life.
Amid much speculation that the cupcake chain's death was not at all permanent, the bakery chain is set to reopen its first set of doors in September at the Columbus Square retail complex between 98th and 99th Streets on the Upper West Side (above). The assets of the chain have been purchased at a very brief bankruptcy auction by CNBC TV personality Marcus Lemonis  in joint venture with Fischer Enterprises LLC.
They were the only bidders.
Lemonis is know for a TV show in which he turns around failing businesses, so don't be surprised if the triumphant return of Crumbs becomes a TV show at some point. Lemonis's plans include broadening the product offering at Crumbs to include coffee and other beverages as well as the possible incorporation of other food brands from chains owned by Fischer like Matt's Cookies, the Key West Key Lime Pie Co., and Dippin Dots Ice Cream. So far, the tiny Columbus Avenue location, which at little more than a display counter and register may not be big enough for much additional product, is the only location announced to reopen, ultimately, 28 of the shop's 49 New York shops are expected to resume business. For the moment, however, Crumbs fans will have to plan a trek up to Columbus Square sometime in September for their first sweet treat from the revived chain.

Cupcake lovers rejoice! Crumbs re-opening in Columbus Square (NYPost)
Empty Wrappers: Why CRUMBS Got Swept Away


Why CRUMBS Got Swept Away

A bunch of new storefronts in highly desirable New York neighborhoods just became available as Crumbs, the cupcake focused bakery chain announced that yesterday would be its stores' last day of business.
Will you miss them?
Probably not, which is why they are gone today.
How could such a surefire business go under as smaller, more locally based chains like Magnolia Bakery continue to thrive?
There are many reasons that will be hashed over in the coming days. Let's get the ball rolling. 

1. Copycats never win.
Magnolia is still around because Magnolia is widely credited for starting the cupcake craze and retains  credibility with consumers. Love them or not, they remain the gold standard for trendy cupcakes. Customers still line up outside the Bleecker Street store for their simple, home style cupcakes and other unassuming but authentically homemade seeming baked goods. It feels like the real deal, even if it is now corporately owned. Crumbs was a Johnny-come-lately to the trend, and its offerings, by comparison, looked contrived and gimmicky. When Crumbs decided to jump on another trend with their knockoff Cronut, the Crumbnut, they were clearly doomed with an inferior product as anyone wh ever tasted one could tell.
We tried one.
It was terrible.

2. Overexpansion.
Magnolia has one branch on the Upper West Side.
Crumbs had three that we can think of off the top of our head —possibly more.
Nobody needed or wanted that many cupcakes, but the folks behind Crumbs felt that they could take the trend and turn it into a big business through sheer force of will and by blanketing the marketplace. Crumbs has been reported as having anywhere from 48 to nearly 70 branches in 10 to 12 states and Washington D.C. at the time of its shutdown. After going public in 2011, a NASDAQ  listing reached a peak of $13 per share, but recently closed at 30¢ before being de-listed entirely on July 1 triggering a default of $9.3 million in senior secured convertible tranche notes and $5.1 million in unsecured notes. The closing of unprofitable locations was already under way when the shuttering of the entire chain was announced

3. Poor Products & Service
Aside from the fanciful, jumbo-sized cupcakes, Crumbs' other products were nothing special. They were barely distinguishable from what you might find at your average coffee bar or deli. The muffins, cookies, brownies and other baked goods held no special qualities that would have suggested any great culinary talent behind the chain. It is debatable whether the elaborate decorations and flavor concepts like Girl Scout Cookie cupcakes actually made for a better cupcake or not. They might have been eye catching, and they were certainly more expensive at $3.50 to $4.50 each, but it seems that customers didn't come running back for more. What's more, the few times The Shophound ever went into Crumbs to buy something, we found inattentive workers behind the counters who seemed to be enjoying themselves at the expense of noticing if anyone was waiting to buy something —and these are not large stores. You really can't miss someone waiting at the counter to order.

There are plenty of news stories today leading with the pronouncement that the cupcake trend is over, but it's more complicated than that. Let's face it, everyone likes sweets. Any retail business has a better chance of succeeding with an original, well-made product presented with a high level of execution. From our observation, Crumbs failed on those counts. They seemed more interested in fast expansion to desirable retail locations than they were in creating a product that offered enduring appeal. "Location, location location" is a worthy mantra, but "Product, product, product" is one that no retailer can ever afford to forget.

Crumbs Bake Shop Closing Its Doors (Wall Street Journal)


Out With Yogurt, In With Juice

JedEganforGrubStreetRemember a couple of years ago when people would line up in front of Pinkberry stores and it was all people could talk about?
Well, things have changed.
This morning, New York Magazine's Grub Street blog informs us that the bottom has fallen out of the Frozen Yogurt business in New York, marking the end of one more factor that has been inflating retail rents in neighborhoods all over the city. Pinkberries and Red Mangoes all over the city have quietly vanished, and other chains have canceled previously announced plans to expand in the city. A host of factors are listed including the sameness of the product (most use identical yogurt mixes form the same Dannon-owned supplier), high overhead since the shops look for the most expensive spaces in high-traffic shopping areas, and plain old product saturation. Once faithful customers, weary of the product's ubiquity, have just gotten tired of it and dropped it altogether, especially when they discovered that the product wasn't exactly as healthful and guilt-free as advertising implied.

So, does this mean relief for streets like Amsterdam Avenue on Manhattan's Upper West Side where residents and community boards have recently been complaining that an alarming influx of frogurt has displaced other, needed business and services? Not necessarily. Another trendy food business with similar real estate requirements is taking hold and shows little sign of losing steam —for now. You might not be too sad to see your neighborhood Pinkberry vanish, but don't be surprised when Liquiteria swiftly moves in. Many remaining yogurt shops are experimenting with adding juice to boost business. Green juices, it seems, are the new Fro-Yo, so this may be a good time to plan that cleanse.

Fro-No: How New York City Soured on Frozen Yogurt (Grub Street)


Macy's Renovation Brings Vivoli's Legendary Italian Gelato To New York

It's always important to keep oneself apprised of important developments in Desserts, and as The Shophound was perusing the list of new ice cream purveyors in this week's New York magazine, we noticed the name Vivoli Il Gelato, which had recently opened a counter at Macy's Herald Square.

Could this be the same Vivoli that we had encountered in Florence, Italy a couple of decades ago, finally making its way across the Atlantic? Yes it is, and it's the very first shop that this 80-year-old family run gelateria has ever opened outside iof Florence, let alone Europe. Even though we had pretty much stuffed ourselves last Thursday at the Super(Duper)Market, we didn't waste a minute hightailing it down to Macy's sixth floor to see if Vivoli's gelato made the overseas journey intact. Was it is good as we remembered? We needn't have worried. Silvana Vivoli, the granddaughter of the company's founder, has reportedly made the journey here to make sure that the new shop lives up to her family's high standards, and so far, nobody seems disappointed since it was uveiled in May. She is keeping a tight classic assortment of nine gelato and three sorbetto flavors available at a time, and though we wanted to taste every one, we picked the pistachio in a promisingly natural shade of green. We settled into the sleek lounge next to the store's highly touted Stella 34 Trattoria and it's dramatic midtown views to savor our little indulgence. As in Florence, Vivoli serves only in cups, and though the small size might seem meager, when it is tightly packed it is more than satisfying. Starting at $4.75, it's also a premium priced treat, but worth it for gelato lovers. The back of the bedding department at Macy's is probably not the first place anyone will look for superlative gelato, and as New York Magazine has pointed out, there is o shortage of good new ice cream available around tow this Summer, but Vivoli is worth going out of your way and braving the crowds of tourists meandering through the store's ongoing renovation for. Hopefully, we will see more Vivoli counters around the city in more convenient (but maybe not too convenient) locations soon.

Vivoli Il Gelato At Macy's Herald Square, 154 W. 34th Street, Sixth Floor
11 Great New Places to Get Ice Cream During the August Heat (Grub Streeet/NYMag)