While the imminent arrival of Nordstrom near Columbus Circle has retailers reevaluating the retail potential of the Upper West Side, Barneys New York has quietly shuttered its location at Broadway between 75th and 76th Streets. The store was originally born in 2004 as a co-ed Co-op location and then transformed into a more luxe Barneys New York branded boutique exclusively offering women's merchandise featuring more expensive designer-level apparel, footwear and handbags. The problem, however, even in the store's initial Co-op days, has always been the mantra of real estate agents everywhere: Location, location location.
You don't have to be a real estate savant to know that an upscale apparel shop on the Upper West Side would belong not on Broadway, a stone's throw from Fairway, Zabar's and Citarella, but two blocks east on Columbus Avenue amongst the Rag & Bone and Theory boutiques. While Brooks Brothers appears to have found some success near Lincoln Center and also on Broadway in the 80s, fashion on Broadway has tended to top out at chain stores like Banana Republic and Gap. Even the fabled, sprawling Upper West Side mini-chain Charivari of decades ago kept its casual unit on Broadway while its directional designer boutiques were on Columbus —and that was in the go-go 1980s.
The location was never a winner for Barneys in either of its incarnations. As a Co-op store, it was the smallest of the spin-off chain's Manhattan branches, and made for a cramped shopping experience, even if its premium denim and somewhat more affordable contemporary fare was well-suited to the general demographics of the area. Despite only a smattering of upscale apparel retail north of Columbus Circle, The Upper West Side provides a wealthy customer base that has been traditionally under-served when it comes to fashion. As Barneys revamped its direction in 2013, the transformation of its Upper West Side shop into a more minimalistic women's-only boutique with luxurious designer offerings felt much more out of place with its four-figure handbags and stock of Manolo Blahnik heels on Broadway flanked by Lululemon and other more prosaic food and service merchants —the right store in the right neighborhood on the wrong street. Additionally, the store was never really big enough to reflect the full expression of the Barneys New York brand, which is associated with large, department-store sized locations. It was like a tiny Barneys that wasn't really much of a Barneys.
As you can see in the photo above, the former micro-Barneys' shelves and racks are now bare. Commercial Observer tells us that it closed on February 18th, but that the lease runs through the end of 2023. One would hope that a replacement tenant can be installed soon, but given glut of overpriced retail space that stands empty for extended periods of time all over Manhattan, the potential for it to become another white elephant storefront is unfortunately high.