While The Shophound normally stays focused on New York City's retail scene, it would be hard for us to ignore the news which broke over the weekend that Louis Boston (always pronounced Loo-eee) would close at the end of the Spring season. The 90-year-old store, family owned over four generations, is reportedly not closing as a result of business challenges, but it is a casualty of the current real estate boom, a situation not foreign to New York retailers. A few years ago, Louis owner Debi Greenberg made the daring decision to move the store from its elegant home on tony Newbury Street to Fan Pier, a newly developing shopping area on Boston's southern waterfront. As it happened, the neighborhood took off, and now Louis is in the way of a new condo development. Though the developers promised a new store for her, Greenberg decided to retire early and shutter the business rather than move again. In a blog post on the store's website, Greenberg calls the closing the end of an era, and re-iterates to WWD that she couldn't imagine selling the store to someone outside the family since her daughter doesn't appear to be interested in carrying on the often grueling career of running a large, independent luxury store. “I don’t think I could bear it,” she says of the thought of someone else running the company, so the possibility of someone swooping in to save the store, like, for instance the folks at Connecticut's Mitchell's did to save San Francisco's similarly beloved Wilkes Bashford a few years ago, seems slim —at least for now.
New Yorkers may remember Louis somewhat less fondly from its short lived expansion here during the late 1980s when a splashy, much heralded store opened here at the corner of West 57th Street and Lexington Avenue. A combination of bad economic conditions and a somewhat off-base location doomed the lavish store which was filled with the kind of pricey, artisanal, hand tailored clothing from labels like Brioni, Kiton and Ermenegildo Zegna that, ironically are among the most coveted by menswear's current enthusiasts. Then owner Murray Pearlstein's predilection for a sophisticated, earthy color palette of mossy greens and browns also failed to persuade New Yorkers who remained devoted to classic black, navy and gray. Ultimately, many local shoppers took it as something of an affront that a store from Boston of all places would try to offer new styles in a city renowned as a fashion capital. In the end, it was our loss, as the kind of labels that Louis promoted then continue to sprout boutiques around the city today. In the intervening years back home in Boston, Louis has continued to evolve as Pearlstein's daughter Goodman took over, increased the women's business and brought a sharper, high fashion edge to the store, ultimately moving it to the starkly modern location (pictured above) that it is about to close. The store will leave a potent legacy, however. The late Murray Pearlstein is revered among menswear retailers, and credited for helping to introduce designers like Giorgio Armani, Luciano Barbera and other European designers to the American market. Designer Joseph Abboud started his career selling clothes at Louis, and another Pearlstein daughter, Nancy, owns and operates Relish, one of Washington DC's most influential boutiques. In the meantime, Louis fans have about six more months to shop at their favorite store. It may be worth a quick trip up to Boston just for posterity's sake.
Louis Boston to Close (WWD)