As soon as Sony sold its Midtown tower a couple of years ago, it seemed inevitable that a new owner would probably be waiting for the media and electronics giant to relinquish its hold on the building's valuable Madison Avenue retail space, and that is what is about to happen. The SonyStyle store is now set to vacate its current home for retail space in its parent company's new home at 11 Madison Avenue right by Madison Square Park. While some still know 550 Madison Avenue by its original name, the AT&T Building, the structure shook the skyline with the striking, outsized postmodern pediment at its top and became the Sony Tower in the Early 90s. SonyStyle has been a showcase for the brand's various products ever since, and while there was once a chain of such stores throughout the U.S., the company's retail devotion was reduced earlier last year to the one store in New York and another in Los Angeles as the consumer electronics market has rapidly evolved over the past two decades. How the store's downtown replacement will look remains to be seen, but it will be hard to match the soaring ceilings inside the store and in the dramatic passageway that cut through the building between 55th and 56th Streets. Once an open-air space that was majestic but cold, Sony took the step of reconfiguring the public space and enclosing it making it more useful for both retailers and passersby. Look for the retail complex, divided by the building's lobby and entryway, to be marketed as two separate store spaces, but not after some extensive renovation. Presumably, the free-to-the-public Sony Wonder Technology Lab (pictured) described as "state-of-the-art technology and entertainment museum" will also be vacating, but it is not known if it will be replicated in the new store. For its part, Sony is relocating its store to a neighborhood on the other side of Madison Square Park from the trendy NoMad area to a neighborhood better known for luxury home furnishing showrooms and Shake Shack, which makes us think that the replacement store will be more of an open showroom for Sony products than a store looking to capture midtown tourist business.
The saga of where Toys "R" Us and FAO Schwarz will ultimately plant their flagship stores appears to have been concluded as The Commercial Observer reports that both stores —which are jointly owned— will move into the historic, about-to-change-hands Brill Building (pictured at right) on the corner of Broadway and 49th Street for a combined store. The companies are reportedly in negotiations with the landmark building's future owners for all or part of the 50,000 square feet of retail space that will be available when renovations are finished.
New Yorkers with fond memories of FAO Schwarz's Fifth Avenue toy palace may be disappointed to learn that its new home would be combined with the more pedestrian Toys "R" Us chain, robbing it of its exclusive veneer, and that is reportedly what scuttled the deal for a new store a block up the street at 1633 Broadway. That building's owners were apparently happy to have FAO Schwarz planted in front of its tower, however they balked at having the more Toys "R" Us mass market brand sharing what they were marketing as a prestige space. The Brill Building, for its part, is best known as the center of the pop music industry during the mid-20th Century, housing legendary songwriters like Burt Bacharach, Hal David, Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Phil Spector, Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller to name just a handful of the hitmakers who called it their professional home. It was still home to the beloved Colony Records music store until 2012 when the last vestige of the ornate Art Deco building's legendary past finally succumbed to closure.
Of course, nobody involved is confirming any news of a new combined toy store flagship yet, and the deal wouldn't be finalized until after the Brill Building's new owners close on their acquisition near the end of this year. A new store opening is still fairly far off, but this looks like the deal that may bring FAO Schwarz back in operating form in Manhattan, if not exactly in the form its nostalgic fans might be hoping for.
FAO Schwarz and Toys “R” Us Looking to Open Combo Store at Brill Building (Commercial Observer)
It seemed like such a tidy plan.
FAO Schwarz, the legendary luxury toy store finally forced out of its Fifth Avenue home as a result of skyrocketing rents would build a new flagship across town near Times Square in an Apple Store like underground space with a splashy entry pavilion on Broadway between 50th and 51st Streets to be ready, hopefully, around Holiday season of next year.
It turns out that the plan was just a little bit too tidy as reports surfaced over the weekend that the deal has fallen through just a week before it was to be finalized, leaving the beloved retailer without a brick-and-mortar retail outlet for the foreseeable future. The 40,000 square foot space will still be developed, and is reportedly on the market with a $4 million rent. Compounding the issue, FAO Schwarz's parent company, Toys 'R' Us will also be closing its flagship in Times Square next year without designating a replacement site in the city. As New York's toy shoppers wring their hands, we all wait breathlessly to find out the fate of these stores. Stay tuned.
Adidas Originals has a distinctive store on Wooster Street (pictured above) with a retractable garage door-style front that opens up to the street when the weather permits. It's a cute, memorable store that does a great job of representing the sub-brand's image only a few blocks away from the big Adidas flagship at Broadway and Houston Street.
For a corporately owned showcase, it has some personality.
So it's moving.
The Observer reports that Adidas has leased a 3,100 square foot space with another 2,100 square feet in the basement for 10 years at 115 Spring Street between Mercer and Greene streets that used to be the Opera Gallery, one of the few remnants of the days when SoHo was really a gallery district with a few high fashion boutiques scattered throughout. Reportedly, the gallery's lease was bought out by the landlord, apparently to snare a more lucrative retail tenant.
Though it is currently on a desirable but relatively quiet block of Wooster between Houston and Prince Streets, the new space will bring Adidas Originals a little bit closer to the hustle and bustle of SoHo's Broadway stretch on the more heavily foot-trafficked Spring Street. The store is eyeing a September opening, but it is unlikely that the open-air front will be replicated in the landmarked district, so enjoy the airy Wooster Street shop while you can.
Adidas Relocating Soho Store to SL Green Property (Commercial Observer)
It is still hard for The Shophound to walk past the space on West 57th Street where gorgeous Beaux Arts townhouse that used to house the Rizzoli Bookstore once stood, but the good news is that the store's downtown replacement is scheduled to open in one week. July 27th is the announced date for the store's return at the respectably ornate 1133 Broadway at 26th Street in NoMad. The scaffolding covering the storefront came down yesterday as workers installed the windows and entrance for the new location (see the rendering of the finished store below), so we got an unscheduled peek inside. While it will be nearly impossible to recreate the midtown store's lavish interior, it appears that the new space will still reflect a similar elegance appropriate to the the St. James Building's Gilded Age style. It was a bit hard to see exactly how big the store will be, but it appears that it may connect at some point to the Italian cafe La Pecora Bianca set to open next month in the same building. We won't have too long to wait to find out for sure. As you can see in the photo above, the books are already on the shelves, so the chance to once again peruse your favorite art volumes, imported magazines and high class porn classy coffee table "erotica" books is only days away.
New York's ruthless real estate scene has claimed another widely admired store as WWD reports that OWEN, which only opened in 2012, is being forced to close at the end of July due to redevelopment of the Meatpacking District building that houses it. It turns out that the store's lease had run out, but the landlord allowed it run from month to month until plans were confirmed to demolish the entire building at 809 Washington Street and rebuild it. The entire block of 48 Gansevoort Street to 74 Gansevoort Street between Greenwich and Washington Streets is reportedly set for a historic restoration and renovation pending the usual approvals by the Department of Buildings, Community Board 2 and the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
Well, at least Owen wasn't forced out by some exorbitant rent increase, but the store is being pushed out nonetheless.
Owner Phillip Salem promises that Owen will return. “I’m going to revamp and relaunch the store. This could be the blessing we need to take the store to the next level,” he tells WWD, and is looking for a new location somewhere downtown. Salem made a name for Owen by focusing on emerging independent designers like Cushnie et Ochs, Jonathan Simkhai, Olcay Gulsen, Tanya Taylor, A.L.C. and Suno to name a few and opened with a striking interior design that featured open paper lunch bags fastened to the walls and ceiling. Those bags will have to come down soon. "On the last day everybody can take a paper bag as a memory," he tells WWD. Hopefully they will reappear in a new space without having to wait for too long. While the boutique is on hiatus, Salem will keep the name alive with the Owen branded handbag line that he has been selling since 2014. In the meantime, Owen fans should be sure to visit the store before it is gone at the end of the month, and grab one of those paper bags for the memories.
Though it has only been open for less than a year, WWD tells us that Roland Mouret's flagship store on Madison Avenue is ready to move to a new space nearby that is nearly four times the size. The new store, a 5,250 square foot 6-floor townhouse at 1006 Madison (pictured above) is said to better reflect the feeling of Mouret's London boutique with 20 foot ceilings and multiple levels to house the designers' expanding array of product offerings. Located a block or so north of his current store at no. 925, the new space will still be within the section of Madison Avenue that is under extra scrutiny lately as it includes the newly opened Apple Store as well as the Whitney Museum's recently vacated Breuer Building that will soon become a satellite of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Even more foot traffic is expected to be directed above 72nd Street. Other neighbors include Christian Louboutin, Missoni, and the Carlyle and Mark hotels, making the former home to the Peress Lingerie boutique something of a sleeper location waiting for a better use. There's no word on when the store will be ready to move, in fact, new os the lease comes not from Mouret but the owner of the building, Thor Equities. For the moment, expect Roland Mouret to stay right where it is for at least another season or two while its expansive new home undergoes what is expected to be some major renovations.
Though FAO Schwarz has only a couple of weeks left before it leaves its longtime home in the GM Building, it looks likely that it will be back in Manhattan by 2016's Holiday season in a retail space that is remarkably similar to its soon to be former neighbor the Apple Store. The Commercial Observer reports that, as had been rumored earlier, the legendary toy store is about to wrap up negotiations to move into an underground space currently being reconfigured at the Paramount Building at 1633 Broadway between 50th and 51st Streets, Originally a sunken plaza not unlike the one that predated the Apple Store in front of the GM building, the new space will have a street level entryway similar to the Fifth Avenue Apple Store's "Cube" (rendering above) which will lead to 40,000 square feet on two underground levels with 14-foot ceilings, allowing for some of the dramatic displays that made FAO Schwarz famous. The Observer reports that the 15-year lease will cost about $4 million per year, a substantial savings on the reported $15.6 million it currently pays on Fifth Avenue, not to mention the increase it would pay had it chosen to remain where it is.
Executives at Toys 'R' Us, FAO Schwarz's parent company, have declined to confirm the new location for the store, but one would be hard pressed to find a better new location for the tourist magnet.
The question of whether any one store would be big enough to take over the Toys 'R' Us flagship in Times Square has been answered with a "No," as Gap Inc. made a deal last week to take over only half of the space for two flagship sized stores. The Observer reports that both the Gap and Old Navy chains will build flagships inside the space after Toys 'R' Us vacates it next year, and the arrangement will include building a third floor atop the structure.
Gap will take 6,000 square feet on the ground level with 25,000 below for a mostly underground store. Old Navy, the division of Gap Inc. which is really driving profits at the moment, will have the more visible part of the complex with the other 6,000 square feet on the main floor as well as the entire 17,500 square feet on the second floor plus another 17,000 square feet on the third floor yet to be built. This marks Old Navy's Times Square debut. It has a store on the busy 34th Street corridor, but just closed its high-profile SoHo store which is being turned into a Zara flagship. Presumably, this means that Gap will eventually close its large Times Square store at 42nd Street and Broadway, but considering how long it will take to build another floor on top of its future home, the move will probably still be at least a year off or more. More details likely to come, so stay tuned.
Gap and Old Navy Find Side-by-Side Homes in Times Square (Commercial Observer)
Anna Sui held a blowout archive sale last week, which can often signal some kind of big news. Band of Outsiders shut down right after its huge sample sale, but, luckily, Sui's sale was only a housecleaning in advance of a relocation next month to 484 Broome Street (pictured above) between Wooster Street and West Broadway. According to WWD, Greene Street has gotten a bit too posh for the bohemian designer, "All the spaces are turning into very high-end luxury boutiques. It seems like all the cooler shops are moving south. I will certainly be closer there to other stores that also suit my customer. The new location matches my sensibility and aesthetics much more." The 23-year old Greene Street store is expected to close early next month with the new boutique set to open a few weeks later in July.