FOND FAREWELL:

Kitchen Cult Store Broadway Panhandler To Close This Year

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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)


ROVING BOUTIQUE:

Paul Smith Is Leaving Flatiron For Bleecker Street. . . For Now

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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.

Paul Smith Relocates to Temporary Site in Manhattan (WWD)
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FLAGSHIP FLASH:

Muji's New Concept Fifth Avenue Flagship Opens Today

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New York has had a few Muji stores for quite some time now, but the new 12,000 square foot, two-level flagship (pictured above) opening today on Fifth Avenue across the street from the New York Public Library is promising new departments and products that will bring the store much closer to the full Muji experience that customers in its Japanese stores have come to know.
For starters, it will have the biggest assortment of clothing yet seen in any of Muji's U.S. stores, including a full selection of children's clothes for ages 2 to 10. Customers will now be able to create a customized scent at the Aroma Bar, and, for the first time, personalize their purchases with monograms or a selection of other designs at the embroidery machine station. Other additions include a Cafe Grumpy coffee bar, plants sold in partnership with Green Fingers New York, and a book section focusing on Japanese lifestyle topics. Most notably, for a store so intensely focused on Japan and its day-to-day culture, the retailer is introducing Found Muji, a section devoted to merchandise curated by its creative staff from around the world, currently featuring France's Basque region (pictured below).
Muji almost always has a few opening day surprised up its sleeve, so today will definitely be a great day to check out the new store, but it sounds like we are starting to see more of full breadth of the products that has made the chain so popular back home in Japan.

MUJI 475 Fifth Avenue between 40th & 41st Street, Midtown
Muji Unveils Experiential Concept in Fifth Avenue New York Store (WWD)
See some more images of the new store after the jump
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Continue reading "FLAGSHIP FLASH:

Muji's New Concept Fifth Avenue Flagship Opens Today" »


TOUCH OF LUXURY:

Christofle Is Coming To Bleecker Street

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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.


BIG BOX RUMORS:

Is This The Entrance To A New Bed Bath & Beyond On Columbus Avenue?

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There have been rumors for months that the popular home chain Bed Bath & Beyond was getting ready to open a second Upper West Side store, and if they are true, it looks like the opening may not be far off. About a Year ago, stories began circulating that the residents of a high-rise apartment building at 100 West 93rd Street and Columbus Avenue were receiving coupons for a new branch of the chain set to open in the new cluster of stores being constructed at the base of their building. The store's representatives refused to confirm the news, and the actual building seemed at the time to be a long way from completion. Now, the plywood has come down, and the entrance to the kind of basement space that would comply with Columbus Avenue's new storefront zoning regulations appears to be nearly finished. The folks at Bed Bath & Beyond are still mum, but that's not unusual for chains these days who often want the element of surprise to help publicize new stores.
At any rate, something is ready to go in down there, and it looks like it may only be a matter of weeks before we find out for sure.


LEASE RELEASE:

Pottery Barn & Williams Sonoma Leaving 59th Street
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Are Rent Increases Forcing
Every Store To Move?

PotteryBarnWS-NYPostWhat does it mean when the national chains aren't interested in renewing a lease with a rent increase? We don't know it that is exactly the reason why the sibling Williams-Sonoma and Pottery Barn stores on 59th Street have become available, but The New York Post is reporting that 32,000 square foot space that the stores have shared for the past 15 years is on the market. Perhaps the stores are moving to higher profile space nearby and rent isn't the issue. While a half a block between Bloomingdale's and Park Avenue can be considered a pretty favorable location, sometimes major stores can get lost mid-block on a side street, and there may be some better space available from which to serve the Upper East Side on Third Avenue, but the stores took the space in the late 90s, when rents were much lower, and 15 years suggests the end of a typical 10-year lease including a 5-year renewal option. Many will remember the location as the home of the legendary disco-era store Fiorucci, which famously employed nightlife figures who modeled the store's wares at Studio 54 for regular customers like Andy Warhol and Jackie Onassis. As that store fizzled, Urban Outfitters took over the final years of its lease before Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma took over after a major remodel that added custom façades for the retailers. With rents what they are, it seems hard to imagine that a flashy, fun, store like Fiorucci would ever be able to thrive in such large location at a $400 a square foot rent.

It's become something of a scandal in both the retail and restaurant worlds in New York that longtime merchants are routinely being forced to uproot and move or shut down as their leases come to an end due to steep rent increases thanks the the current real estate boom in the city. The result has been a lot of empty storefronts in affluent shopping areas all over Manhattan as landlords (many of whom are in other cities or countries) patiently wait months and even years for that deep pocketed bank or chain store or restaurant to pony up the dough for the space.
But Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma are national chains.
If they aren't willing to absorb a rent increase, then who is? And how can any store expect to stay in the same place for more than 15 years at the most? Maybe they no longer will. Perhaps the days of an independent or even small chain store remaining in place over decades are over. Maybe retailers should just set up shop in mobile home units, ready to take off and move at a moment's notice.

Fiorucci’s former location coming up for rent (NYPost)


SAMPLE SALE REPORT:

Check Off Your Christmas List
At The C. Wonder Sample Sale

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It has been a busy morning for the folks at 260 Sample Sale launching two big sales at once at their Fifth Avenue facilities. First off is burgeoning retailer C. Wonder's first sample sale which kicked off in the main location at 260 Fifth. What was meant to be an early morning press preview at 8 AM turned into simply an early opening for people who planned ahead. Since C. Wonder's prices tent to be pretty reasonable to begin with, what we found ourselves at was a sale full of gift ideas at bargain prices, especially for anyone who is a fan of the chain's Palm Beach-Preppy aesthetic. There were tables full of home items under $25 —many as low as $5 or $10 including picture frames, coasters, mugs, scented candles, lacquer boxes, pet accessories, etc. Women's apparel was arranged neatly along the room's southern wall, again priced well with everything under $75 and much of it under $50. Perhaps the most popular section will be in the back where all shoes were $50. Though it was generally quiet when The Shophound was there, the biggest hub of activity was the accessory counter where shoppers were snapping up colorful handbags and totes. Basically, this sale should be a boon to anyone with a long Holiday gift list. Under the skirted tables we saw several boxes of back stock, but how long that will last remains to be seen. Have a look in our gallery below for price lists and a few shots of what we saw at the sale.

C. Wonder Sample Sale through November 9 between 28th & 29th Street, Flatiron District
See the SALE ROLL at left for details 
 

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ALEXANDRA JACOBS GOES SHOPPING:

Sweet Dreams Edition

24CRITICAL_SPAN-articleLargeThis week's Thursday Styles, Critical Shopper, Alexandra Jacobs investigates SoHo's Sleep Studio, a concept store devoted to everything bedroom related. She opens with a recounting of her own peculiar "early-rising" sleep disorder that seems vaguely Kuczynski-esque with only a tiny soupçon of over-sharing and, sadly, none of the bewildering crazy that our original Critical Shopper used to serve up regularly.

But on to the store, which takes a clever concept with potentially wide appeal but pitches it more toward SoHo's well-heeled residents than its sneaker-shod tourist population. Additionally, it errs on the restorative, restful side of bedroom activity as opposed to the racier side of things. Even the "relaxation aids" have been sanitized to avoid any confusion,

“They’re supposed to be classy,” said a clerk with a chestful of tattoos that also seemed more neighborly than transgressive, as she cheerfully wiggled the two prongs of what looked like a large pink molar back and forth. “What do you even do with this? I don’t know.” 

Well, as they say, "If you have to ask..."

Critical Shopper:Counting Sheep, Wallet in Hand By Alexandra Jacobs
Sleep Studio 73 Wooster Street between Spring & Broome Streets, SoHo


NOW OPEN:

MUJI's Fifth New York Store Hits Cooper Square Today

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It may have been the disgusting weather this morning that made the Press Preview for MUJI's new store on Cooper Square a bit more subdued than one would have expected. Of course, this in New York's fifth store from the Japanese chain, so we are all pretty familiar with what they have to offer by now, and yet the company has made each store a bit different.

In a certain sense, it's a surprise that it took Muji so long to get to the East Village, which, for years has been home to a number of smaller restaurants and stores specializing in Japanese food and products that are harder to find elsewhere. The new Muji store is a few doors away from a Japanese barbecue, so it fits in the neighborhood just fine, especially on a block that has recently become home to some dramatic, futuristic architecture. Muji is not, however in one of those buildings, but in a more traditional sort of space that makes it the first New York store to offer two levels of shopping. On the street level, there are all the familiar offerings from clothing to home and kitchen items to ever more of the brand's fascinating pens and paper products. Downstairs, however, holds an expanded offering of the brand's furniture. Browse around long enough and find yourself longing to live in an environment defined by simple, functional wooden furniture and walls filled with pristine stacks of polypropylene shelves and drawers. As we have mentioned before, part if the appeal of Muji's furniture is that it is scaled to small living spaces, a quality that any New York Apartment dweller can appreciate.

We hadn't had a good browse around Muji for a little while, and there are always ingenious new gadgets and clever items to discover. We were kindly gifted with a Silicone Ice Ball Maker —designed for those who prefer a single sphere of ice— inside a special edition of the store's re-usable canvas My Bag made just for the store that will be distributed to the first 1,000 customers. Check out our gallery below for a look inside the new store.

MUJI Cooper Square 52 Cooper Square between East 6th & 7th Streets, East Village

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NEW ARRIVALS:

Steven Alan's Home Store Is Open

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The fine folks at Steven Alan have kindly let us know that the retailer's long-awaited Home Furnishings store is finally open in TriBeCa. Located just a few steps down Franklin Street from the TriBeCa Annex. We have not gotten a chance to stop in yet, but we have been definitively informed that it will carry a full range of products for the home and garden including locally sourced goods like Good Candle, a curated selection of rugs and kilims by Susan Gomersall and Azy Schecter of KEA in Brooklyn, special glassware created in collaboration with Brooklyn Glass Studio, and home items from Fort Standard who also created the shop’s fixtures.

Alan tells us, “Typically, many design stores are predictable and feel like when you go in once, you almost never need to go back. This (Steven Alan Home Shop) is a quirky, eclectic assortment of things you want to buy; a space with both local and imported products from around the world. There’s a certain element of surprise, as the product will change frequently. Going in you won’t necessarily know what you’re going to find, but you’ll always want to take something home.”

The store is also launching Steven Alan's first furniture collection in collaboration with local furniture designer Jason Pickens. The line of made-to-order sofas in custom fabrics is called J Pickens for Steven Alan. The store is open now, so feel free to put it at the top of your weekend shopping plans.

Steven Alan Home Shop 158 Franklin Street between Varick & Hudson Streets, TriBeCa