LEADERS OF THE NEW COOL:
The Second Wave of Modern Retail (2005-Present)
Ed McFarland: “I think I got in right when the transition of this section of Lafayette Street was happening around 2006. There were low-end restaurants and diners but La Esquina was here and Spring Natural was already on the corner.”
Lafayette represents the heartbeat and the mecca of it all. We have Broadway right behind us. Supreme is right next door. Everything is right here.
Steve Schul: “By the time we moved here around 2006 it wasn’t dangerous anymore or really that dirty. It was pretty safe and it seemed like it would eventually evolve into something.”
Tatiana Johnson: “For us, there was no other location we could have opened in last year. Lafayette represents the heartbeat and the mecca of it all. We have Broadway right behind us. Supreme is right next door. Everything is right here—and all these other retailers complement (instead of compete with) what [Liebeskind] has to offer as a brand.”
Alex Corporan: “Everything started getting high between 1999 and 2000, more customers and more foot traffic. For us that’s when the name got stronger and the brand got bigger. It’s almost like everyone got a memo that said, ‘Skateboarding is cool now and theres a skate shop on Lafayette. It became the place to go and all these bars and restaurants and New York nightlife was connecting with us. Skateboarding felt like a new phenomenon for everyone but it's an old thing to us.”
Shayni Rae: "The street has really maintained its unique character, with a nice mix of some international brands, niche stores and local entrepreneurs, plus David Bowie and Iman keep a residence on the block. The boutiques are still original. The restaurants are international. There still isn't a Starbucks on the block, but instead a very cool coffee shop; La Columbe."
Guido Campello: "Having a [Cosabella] flagship in New York was key for us. We found our building by walking around the neighborhood and we looked for about a year in this neighborhood before opening in 2011. This building was a mechanic's garage and it was this old red brick building, not very attractive but unique. It was a space we could personalize. We are an Italian company and since Lafayette Street is between SoHo and Little Italy, for us it was the best of both worlds.”
RIGHT HERE. RIGHT NOW:
Lafayette Street: Present Day
Ed McFarland: “From blue-collar workers to high-end Wall Street families, they all live on this street. There’s also loads of nontraditional workers in the neighborhood - writers, agents, and other creatives - and they all eat at the same restaurants and shop at the same stores.”
Charlie McCorkell: “A lot of people who own businesses here ride bikes and so they come here often. And when I need a product or service they sell, I usually go see them. So, there’s still that small community feeling to this street. It tends to be a little more neighborhoody.”
Shayni Rae: "G-Star has a core following of international travelers, who also pay us a visit here in the Lafayette store. The foot traffic has increased over the years, but maintained its sense of style. We have two other G-Star stores on Broadway, and they see different customers. The Lafayette flagship store has a hard-core following. At any given time the store could be filled with musicians, artists, actors, and creative personalities from all around the world. We've seen everyone from Calvin Klein to Joe Manganiello to Ashley Benson to Usher shop in the store and they are always very pleasant to work with."
Heidi Klum and Seal once walked by and saw our window display, which at the time was decked out with those rubber Barack Obama masks that go over your head. (2008 was the election year.) Seal ran inside and asked us about buying one of the masks off our display piece. He was ecstatic when we gave it to him for free.
Steve Schul: “You still see the people who actually live here. Its not like your Broadway where it’s only tourists. You can breathe while you’re here; its not always packed. Lafayette is just so Lafayette. And it's not Soho and it's not Nolita. I would never tell someone the store is in Nolita even though its like five feet away from there. ”
Dean Jankelowitz: “It’s strange to find in New York City, in downtown, a street that is actually very neighborhood friendly. What I enjoy about it also, being a foreigner, the demographic is mixed. People from all over come here, they have kids here, and the kids grow up here and become part of this culture around us. You go most other places in the city and there’s a more homogenous culture. But here you get a bit of everything.”
George Schwarz: "Everybody recognizes everybody. Now we are in the next generation. Somebody comes and says, ‘My parents used to bring me here and now I’m bringing my daughter!’ Sometimes we have even three or four generations come and they all came from the beginning. They will say ‘Remember in your second year you had this duck on Sunday night? Do you still make it?’ and I say ‘Well we haven’t made it for a few years but if you want it, we’ll make it for ya.' [laughs] We are not corporate. If this were corporate I would’ve sold this whole business a long time ago.”
Jean-Marc Houmard: “We’re also serving different generations now too. There are people who used to come in the 1980s and now it's their kids who come more than them. The age group has remained the same. It’s not just older people with nostalgia of their young days, it's very vibrant with a lot of different kinds of people—including those who have never been and are discovering it anew. It’s amazing.”
Vahap Avsar: “Today it's a more diverse crowd of people. Our part of Lafayette Street, above Houston, just ten or so years ago used to be only hardcore street-wear guys, mostly men. Now it's many more people, more genders, all walks of life.”
Steve Schul: "In the beginning it was just our customer base, that's it. People wouldn't even walk down this street. It was either Broadway or some other street—it was rare to see this much foot traffic. Over the years more people have filtered through as this has become more of a shopping street. The foot traffic alone has increased tenfold I would say."
Vahap Avsar: "That foot traffic also involves celebrities. We don't want to name too many names but many people have come by the SoHo store. Although one good recent story is in the October 2008, Heidi Klum and Seal once walked by and saw our window display, which at the time was decked out with those rubber Barack Obama masks that go over your head. 2008 was the election year. Seal ran inside and asked us about buying one of the masks off our display piece, of course he was ecstatic when we gave it to him for free. The paparazzi pictures are still floating around out there somewhere."
Dante Ross: “I still walk around downtown. I still stop by Supreme. I’ll go by WESC or stop by Blackscale to see friends, grab a bite at La Esquina or see my friend Jimmy who owns a restaurant in the area. But it’s not where I want to walk around so much anymore. It’s too many people now.”
Alex Corporan: “The block has definitely become more touristy, but also more adult. Seeing it now, it’s hard to believe that this was the same street where we would skate up and down the block and inside and outside of the store. It’s hard to believe it’s the same place where there’d be like twenty of us watching skateboard videos at the store with like fifty or sixty kids watching through the window. There’d be no cops or no one to bother us. That could never happen today.”
The Future of Lafayette
Dean Jankelowitz: "I would love Lafayette to be vibrant and bustling all the way south to the courthouse. In my best imagination when the Freedom Tower is finished there will be stores all the way down the street, a nice sense of community and people putting energy into the environment. I would love Lafayette to be from beginning to end to be comfortable and perfect."
Ed McFarland: "I think it's only gonna get better because the neighborhood still has room for improvement. There's still a lot of space and I hope they keep it somewhat on the smaller side. I hope (developers) don’t go too crazy building up. But I'd like to see new retail as well as restaurants because the more people we drive to the neighborhood the more it benefits everyone here from the businesses to the people who live here."
I just hope this doesn't become Broadway. I just hope there won’t be a McDonalds across the street.
Shayni Rae: "G-Star is an international luxury denim brand, focusing on denim innovation and craftsmanship—yet there is something anyone can afford. Our customers know this and keep coming back to see what is new. Next July will be the 10 year anniversary for this location. The only constant in NYC is change, and we can only hope that LaFayette Street changes for the good and maintains its unique creative flavor."
Fernando Dallorso: "I hope Lafayette is able to keep that thin line between progress and character. In between the fine restaurants and fine retail, there’s still a store that sells leather, theres a store that sells flooring supplies, there’s a hardware store. You wouldn’t see that on Broadway, or on West Broadway, or on Park avenue. As long as those little stores remain Lafayette it will stay the same."
Matt Barolo: "Who knows what Keith would be interested in doing with the store now if he was still alive? I can't imagine. But personally, I can't help but be nostalgic and think about the old days on Lafayette Street when the shop was at its peak.”
Jean-Marc Houmard: “Lafayette has preserved its character and I hope it will stay that way. Hopefully it will maintain its specialness and the big box stores on Astor Place will realize they are out of place and go somewhere else. Then we'll only have beautiful boutiques like Screaming Mimi's up around. It's the individuality these stores represent that New York—that Lafayette—is all about."
Laura Wills: "I would like to see my boutique here after ten years. I know there will be more renovations and changes, but now that it's strictly landmarked they say there won’t be any demolitions or overbuilding. But we will see. I just hope this doesn't become Broadway. I just hope there won’t be a McDonalds across the street."
Dante Ross: “Lafayette is not in danger of becoming Broadway—it’s already become it. It’s like Broadway Junior.But that’s the story of everything in New York, especially downtown—not just Lafayette. Unfortunately, you can't go back to another era. Theres no time machine and once things are discovered, they are discovered—and they change.”
Alex Corporan: “It’s true. But Lafayette still has a lot of pluses. It still feels special, it still has an energy. But on the other hand, I do miss how different things were back then. Very organic. Very just us. The store and the street felt like our clubhouse. We marked a very special time in the history of New York and the history of the street—and now it’s passed.”
Guido Campello: "I’ll tell you this: my first day after I relocated to New York City, I happened to be on Lafayette on Houston and I was able to look down and see all the way down and at the time you could see past Petrosino Square all the way through to the World Trade Center. It was breathtaking. That image of Lafayette has always stuck with me. I hope that’s how it will always be."