Manhattan Still Home to Independent Retailers
Bernice Hurst, Contributing Editor, RetailWire
tradition of small, independent retailers on Manhattan’s Lower east
side is apparently thriving in spite
of the recession. Unlike pop-up shops, The New
York Times explains
these niche retailers intend to become permanent fixtures. The determined
entrepreneurs cited have experience supplying larger retailers but
decided that supplying themselves would be more interesting and satisfying.
Each has a passion for what they sell and to whom; quality for both
is a priority.
Chen of Self Edge sells replicas of vintage American clothes from Japanese
designers and says the recession hasn’t hurt business. “It helps to
carry a product that nobody else has, and it helps to be knowledgeable
about it.” He has a ten-year lease on Orchard Street.
King of JF & Son echoed his sentiments, selling clothes made by
a studio she and partners own in India. According to the newspaper,
the studio was a result of “frustration with the demands of middlemen,
including buyers and showroom owners.”
we started the studio, it made a world of difference,” Ms. King explained. “We
were able to make things we’d never be able to do in New York. …
I’ve forgotten about the recession.”
neighbors are a mixed bunch but with a certain common theme. Victor
Osborne, whose hat store was rented for “only slightly more” than his
Brooklyn workroom, said “the recession has changed his approach to
design” and enabled him to merchandise his designs the way he wants
to rather than “designing for what the department stores wanted.”
Carbonell transferred her knowledge and experience in the fashion industry
to a new business, Metal and Thread, that specializes in “jewelry and
wood and metal objects, like forged baskets and beautiful old jackknives.” She
doesn’t expect to make a great deal of money, she said. Customers tend
to be “people who are drawn to this kind of thing and love the feeling
of it, but it’s not the majority.”
Jake Mueser of Against Nature doesn’t know the size
of the market for his clothes. He knows “it’s limited to privileged
people who want something a little different. … Right now any amount
of money that keeps this place open and keeps me fed and living is
more than enough money to make what I do worthwhile.” His partner, Amber Doyle, agrees,
describing the business as “so much fun.”
“There are no boundaries
to these things,” said Ms. Doyle.
Questions: What is the opportunity for hip independent stores in the
current market in New York City and other places around the country?
Are independents benefitting from the problems at major high-end stores?
What are they offering that consumers can’t find anywhere else?