Jewelry designer boldly opts for SoHo setting

Big W. Broadway lease bucks trend, wins 20% discount for stand-alone store

By Lore Croghan

Published on September 09, 2002

A high-profile designer of jewelry and luxury accessories signed a big lease in SoHo, bucking a post-Sept. 11 trend in the beleaguered retail neighborhood.

Barry Kieselstein-Cord, whose baubles, bangles, belts and bags are big sellers at Bergdorf Goodman, rented a two-story building at 454 West Broadway. It's for his first stand-alone store in New York City, which he's planning to open this weekend.

"Everyone is running away from SoHo; I'm running to it," says Mr. Cord, whose jewelry is in collections at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Louvre as well as on the wrists of celebrities and socialites.

The aftereffects of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center continue to hurt retailers throughout downtown, even in areas, such as SoHo, that are relatively far from Ground Zero. Numerous tenants that had signed pricey leases in SoHo have decided not to occupy their spaces, or have opted to leave stores they've moved into. For the first time in years, scores of storefronts are available.

But Mr. Cord, whose business has been profitable for 27 of its 29 years, thinks the twentysomethings at the younger end of his customer spectrum still like to shop in SoHo. He's willing to take a chance on the neighborhood.

"He has that pioneering spirit," observes Candice Dobbs, the president of Dobbs Associates Inc., the sole broker in his West Broadway deal.

Mr. Cord got a 20% discount on the asking rent, which was $300 per square foot for the ground floor and $75 for the second floor. The lease runs for 10 years. The 3,800-square-foot location has been empty since spring 2001, when building owner United American Land paid bookseller Rizzoli to leave before its lease expired. The landlord subsequently lined up a more lucrative deal with a big-name tenant, but it was scrapped after Sept. 11, says Albert Laboz, a principal of United American Land.

The designer wants his new store to serve as a showcase for his numerous product lines, which include furniture, luggage and eyeglasses as well as jewelry, handbags and belts. Most of the second floor will house an art gallery, for which he has hired a curator.

"I need a stage for our firm," Mr. Cord says. "I haven't had a window at Bergdorf in my entire 23 years there."


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