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.
Some things just aren't meant to last forever.
While we have become accustomed to hearing about beloved independent retailers forced to close after exorbitant rent hikes or predatory competition, Broadway Panhandler will close its doors sometime this spring for a less painful reason: retirement. Store owner Norman Kornbleuth is 72 years old, and has simply reached the point where he is ready to wind the business down. Since his children are not interested in carrying on the business, and his attempts to sell the store have proved fruitless, Mr. Kornbleuth will shutter it when he decides the time has come. “We were never just about housewares,” he tells the Times' Florence Fabricant. “With my background, we could continue to sell equipment to restaurants.” Originally opened in SoHo about 40 years ago, Broadway Panhandler migrated from its namesake address in 1995 to Broome Street and then again up to East 8th Street in 2o6. Through the years, Kornbleuth developed a destination for chefs, celebrities and celebrity chefs alike thanks to the kind of personal service that is hard to replicate outside independent stores. Despite heavy competition from upscale chains like Williams-Sonoma, Sur La Table and even discount laden Bed Bath & Beyond, the store thrived with most of the same top brands they carried plus more arcane fare and more exclusive suppliers. The store has been known as the first stop for obscure cooking items that are easily overlooked by bigger chains. Most notable was the extensive knife counter with a selection tough to match in the city. Culinary minded New Yorkers will still have independent stores like Whisk and Bowery Kitchen Supply in Chelsea Market to look to, but it will be tough for them to match the wide selection and depth of expertise that made Broadway Panhandler a mainstay.
Broadway Panhandler, Longtime Manhattan Cookware Retailer, to Close in Spring By Florence Fabricant (NYTimes)
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.
Last month, The Shophound discovered that Marc Jacobs had quietly closed one of his colony of stores in the West Vilage (above left) with little sign of who would take over the lovely little shop on the corner of West 4th and Bank Streets. This week the New York Times solved that mystery when it announced that the widely admired cult accessory brand Want Les Essentials de la Vie will open its first standalone boutique next month in the West Village, accompanied by a photograph of the label's founders, identical twins Byron Peart and Dexter Peart standing in front of the unmistakable arched windows of the former Jacobs store (above right).
Now that we know that one of the prettiest storefronts in the neighborhood won't be dark for long, we can look forward to the opening of the Montreal-based brand's new boutique. The label's steady rise over the past nine years is chronicled in the Times article, which indicated that while the shop will stock both men's and women's complete Want collections, including the new men's shoe line, it will also, as is the current vogue among independent designers, carry items from other vendors including apparel from Comme des Garçons Forever and objects by Viennese designer Carl Auböck.
There's no specific opening date announced for the Want store, but as the Jacobs store was previously set up as an accessory shop, and it is not a huge space, an opening in October seems quite reasonable, and it will add to what is turning out to be one of the best seasons of new store opening s that we have seen in some time.
In the midst of realigning his signature label, Marc Jacobs has quietly shuttered one of his West Village stores.
The charming store at the corner of West 4th and Bank Streets (pictured above) ceased operations a few weeks ago. It was most recently a Marc by Marc Jacobs accessories store, but like most of his retail spaces in the neighborhood, it has had several identities of the years including a Men's store, and a Collection accessories store. Of all the designers' shops, this one was the furthest off the beaten path, one block away from the busier Bleecker Street corridor, with only the Little Marc children's' store on the opposite corner of the intersection to drum up traffic.
Still, with its elegant arched windows, the now empty shop remains on of the prettier retail spaces in the neighborhood. So far there's no word on a replacement tenant, and now that rent increase-induced turnover has created an unprecedented amount of available retail space on Bleecker Street, it may take some time for the storefront to be filled.
Earlier this year, Jacobs announced that his contemporary label Marc By Marc Jacobs would be folded into his signature line, causing some inevitable shakeup in his retail network. The designer remains a strong presence in the West Village, however. In addition to the aforementioned children's store, there are still the Marc By Marc Jacobs stores for men and women as well as the cosmetics shop and Bookmarc book store all on Bleecker Street. Presumably, the apparel stores will be rebranded to the main Marc Jacobs line for next spring, but it's not unusual for the designer to have a twist or two up his sleeve, so stay tuned for further developments.
Today's Thursday Styles features Critical Shopper Molly Young's trip to a store that sounds vaguely like others that have come before it and others that will probably come after. At Calliope, each item is carefully chosen and tagged by hand to make a perfectly curated array of very special merchandise. Its owners describe themselves as "Purveyors of things we like", and, as such, they join a host of New York shopkeepers, some wildly successful, others less so, who open stores not as a means of creating income, but more as a creative expression of their own rarefied tastes. New York City's retail scene would be nothing without these merchants. Sometimes they are relatively innocuous neighborhood stores that last no more than a few years, and sometimes they wind up as influential players like Geraldine Stutz's legendary Henri Bendel of the 1970s and 80s (back when it was still at 10 West 57th Street) or today's Kirna Zabête or Odin. The ones that succeed propel shopping forward. It's hard to know where Calliope falls on this spectrum, but one thing is for sure: Molly Young is over it.
As pleasant as all the refinement was, it did not have much effect on my pulse. I wandered the store, poking at my brain and senses to react, but they couldn’t engage. I am simply not curious about the type of person who finds her personality reflected in a Brazilian quartz crystal to the degree that she is willing to pay $410 for it. Shopping can be a gesture of self-expression, but it can also be a lapse in critical thinking.
The Thursday Styes —and the Sunday Styles and T Magazine for that matter— probably wouldn't exist if it weren't for $410 Brazilian quartz crystals and the people who find their personalities reflected in them or some other equally extravagant item. New York is full of stores stuffed to the rafters with things that cost way too much, and while it seems easy to turn ones nose up at all of the people who buy the stuff in them —and there are always more than you think there are— if it weren't for them, there wouldn't be much for the Critical Shopper to write about at all.
Critical Shopper: At Calliope, Beautiful Things for Beautiful, Moneyed People By Molly Young (NYTimes)
Calliope 349 West 12th Street between Washington & Greenwich Streets, West Village
This week's Thursday Styles features Critical Shopper Jon Caramanica's discovery of Craft Atlantic's Greenwich Avenue boutique in the West Village —no easy task as the shop has been obscured by scaffolding for a good portion of its brief existence. Perhaps apropos of this, our shopper takes a while to get to the meat of his story this week, opening with a breakdown of sorts of the current menswear fascination with humble basics once thought relegated to the gymnasium, simple sneakers, tees and sweats. After dropping the names of a few currently admired practitioners, he finally turns his attention to Craft Atlantic, which he places in the center of this trend, extolling the subtle, travel-inspired details featured on the store's self branded goods.
Our shopper likes it, even if he isn't quite swooning, and is at least sold on the carefully tweaked neckline on a simple tee. "In fact, shopping solely from here may ensure that you don’t stand out at all. Given this, it’s important to remember that the new basics are in actuality a test. Think how easy it is to get credit for flamboyance."
If this doesn't sound like a breathless endorsement, look at it this way: Being a stylish gentleman doesn't mean chasing down every whim of the ever more creative but sometimes ill-advised men's fashion set. The Shophound has been to Craft Atlantic, and we must say that it is the kind of place where the connoisseur will find beautifully detailed basics to admire and buy —they are still the backbone of any well-dressed guy's wardrobe— and also the kind of place where the well-meaning but less confident guy who wants to look up-to-date can rest assured that he can't go too far wrong. Call it a gateway shop for guys who aren't quite ready to navigate slightly more directional stores like Odin or Carson Street Clothiers on their own, playing a vital role in the ongoing effort to get more guys who might otherwise be indifferent to dress better.
Critical Shopper: Craft Atlantic Puts Modesty on Display, With Surprises By Jon Caramanica (NYTimes)
Craft Atlantic 115 Greenwich Avenue at Jane Street, West Village
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)
Greenwich Village's fabled charm is getting squeezed away block by block. Avignone Chemists, a bright, stalwart Village fixture at the corner of Bleecker Street and Sixth Avenue since 1929, is closing to avoid a tripling of its monthly rent.
This is not surprising news, sadly, but it begs the question: Is there any future for a charming independently owned retail establishment in a nice neighborhood? Avignone's impending closure follows similar stories about beloved neighborhood haunts like the now closed Manatus Restaurant on Bleecker and Bonnie Slotnick's famous cookbook store being pushed out by landlords (usually brand new ones) who are swift to kick out longtime tenants in favor of potentially finding higher paying tenants —even if that means months or even years of empty storefronts before such a tenant is found. Slotnick's small but unique business was saved at the last minute by a fan who happened to be willing to rent her a suitable space at a suitable rate, but most businesses are not so lucky.
Avignone's current owner, Abe Lerner, who has run the store for the past 30 years, claims that his entire block is now owned by one company, Force Capital Management, which seems to think it can find better use for the 1,700 square foot space. "I've spent half my life here," Lerner tells DNAinfo. "I've known many of these people for 30 years; I've seen a lot of kids grow up. A lot of these people have become friends — they're not just customers, they're friends."
Lerner has until April 30th to vacate the space, and while he hopes to move to a new location as close to the old one as possible, though finding an affordable one in the immediate vicinity seems unlikely. Potential tenants at 281 Sixth Avenue are reportedly being offered the space for $60,000 per month. No word yet on any potential takers.