THE NEW YORK TIMES STYLE MAGAZINE — HOLIDAY 2005
Beyond all the crass stereotypes lies another, more genteel Long Island. A Long Island redolent of C.Z.Guest puttering around the garden in Old Westbury, of Woolworth mansions and of Roosevelt homesteads. It is this more lavish demographic that the Americana Manhasset- one of the country’s more chichi shopping destinations- caters. Built in the 1950’s, its strip mall façade was gorgeously lifted in the 80’s by Peter Marino, global luxury’s architect of choice. Today, Americana Manhasset, with its 60 retail stores, is the Rodeo Drive of the North Shore. Luckily for Manhattanites, it’s just a 50-minute jaunt on the Long Island Rail Road. Here are our nine favorite spots.
This fashion emporium desperately made us wish we were Suzanne Saperstein in the mood for a makeover. Its J. Mendel boutique serves up tasteful Traina sisters elegance, while the Dolce & Gabbana sells separates that take you from lunch at the Ivy to the plastic surgeon or a weekend in Aspen, Colo. The Chanel boutique (above) offers classic black dresses that scream Vanessa Paradis as styled by Carine Roitfeld, and the Valentino stop-n-shop feels very Marisa Berenson-on-the-witness-stand: sober but ultrachic. 2080 Northern Boulevard.
MANHASSET, N.Y. – HIRSHLEIFER’S – THE FASHION EMPORIUM…
MANHASSET, N.Y. – Hirshleifer’s the fashion emporium in the upscale Americana Manhasset shopping center here, has long attracted some of the world’s best designers, often introducing them to affluent shoppers on Long Island.
But some progress so well that they flee to create their own freestanding stores. Last year, Christian Dior, which was Hirshleifer’s second-biggest volume resource, opened a shop at the Americana. And in recent years, Hirshleifer’s has been abandoned by brands such as Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Fendi, which all choose independence and freestanding units in the Americana.
Pressures on family-run fashion stores such as Hirshleifer’s have mounted, forcing many to sell or close. They have been pummeled by retail giants such as Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, and bruised by designers expanding and retailing. Gone are family fashion stores such as Martha’s, Sara Frederick’s and Charivari. Nordstrom this year took over Jeffrey, in New York and Atlanta, and Mitchells, based in Westport, Conn., bought Marshs, a Long Island men’s fashion store.
“Depending on the vendor, sometimes the prospect of them leaving is scary, because we are counting on a certain amount of revenue,” said Caryn Hirshleifer, who oversees the store’s legal, marketing, planning, and public relations activities and is a lawyer. “It forces us to keep our eyes open for the next thing, and turn these situations into opportunities.”
Fortunately, said Lori Hirshleifer, Caryn’s sister, who oversees the buying and merchandising, “we know a lot of people in the market. I travel to Europe six times a year and see every collection we can see. We keep going back and going back. You just keep working at it.” “She also has a buying scout in Paris.”
Sometimes, a family business can run amok when the management gets passed on to the next generation, which has ideas on reshaping the business. That happened with Barney’s New York, which went bankrupt while under the control of the founder’s grandsons, but got bailed out of Chapter 11 by financial investors and was ultimately sold to Jones Apparel Group.
The Hirshleifer family has retained tight control and resisted selling to other retailers prowling for acquisitions, such as Mitchells. Overtures apparently up around the time of the death of family patriarch Paul Hirshleifer, who died in February 2004. He was the grandson of Jacob Hirshleifer, the founder of the business, originally a fur salon on Manhattan Avenue in Brooklyn in 1910 and known then as J. Hirshleifer.
Paul Hirshleifer really put Hirshleifer’s on the map, establishing it as one of the nation’s premier fashion emporiums, selling designers such as Vera Wang, Valentino, Roberto Cavalli, John Galliano, Lucien Pellat-Fillet, Malo and J.Mendel. For a small business, Hirshleifer’s has a big reputation and an impressive customer base, extending through much of Long Island and New York City. Typically, customers are 30 to 50 years old, and range from investment bankers to those spending their days lunching and going to the gym.
After Paul Hirshleifer’s death, his three daughters, Caryn, Lori, and Shelley, along with their mother Lillian, assumed the reins. They have adopted a feisty approach to growing the business, formulating different types of designer arrangements and shop concepts, making last year and possibly this year among Hirshleifer’s biggest. In 2004, Hirshleifer’s had a 20 percent gain in volume, topping $18 million in sales, and for the first half of 2005, tracked about 30 percent ahead, family members said. The company employs 48 people and recently added about a dozen new staffers.
The biggest deal solidified the family’s 20 year relationship with Chanel, which is the store’s largest volume resource, accounting for more than 40 percent of sales in 2004. Chanel is being repositioned in a 2,500-square-foot shop, with the expanded interior expected to be ready for business on Oct. 10 and a new façade completed in November.
The reinvented Chanel space has been carved out of former 500-square-foot Dior space, a former 1,000 square-foot special events area and part of an area that Hirshleifer’s already devoted to Chanel products. The so-called corner agreement gives Hirshleifer’s the right to sell and advertise Chanel ready-to-wear and accessories.
“It is very scary putting your dollars out there, but Chanel’s business has been phenomenal,” Lori Hirshleifer said.
The brand has had 86 to 90 percent sell-throughs, with Cambon quilted leather multipocket bags for $2,750, or smaller versions priced at $690, among the best sellers, she said.
“Chanel has always been our number-one resource in terms of productivity,” Lori Hirshleifer said. “Dior was productive, but not as much as Chanel. Last year, we had a 50 percent increase in the Chanel buy.”
Next month, Hirshleifer’s will stage a grand opening of a 752-square-foot Valentino boutique, also owned by the family, which had a soft opening July 1. It’s housed in a space that once sold men’s wear. Last month, a 350 square-foot shoe salon opened, and there’s also a separate Jimmy Choo area operating since fall 2004.
Hirshleifer’s really spread its wings this year by creating Jil Sander and Dolce & Gabbana shops, also owned and operated by the family. They are contiguous to the main 12,000 square-foot Hirshleifer’s store, are linked by pass-throughs and have their own entrances. They were carved out from the former Burberry and Coach shops, which had been operated by Hirshleifer’s, but eventually took their own sites at the Americana Manhasset. These projects face up to the realities of designers who aren’t content to wholesale.
“It used to be you just bought and sold goods, maybe got exclusive some co-op advertising dollars,” Caryn Hirshleifer said. “Now there are a lot of types of agreements, from a straight lease to consignment to a more formal license or franchise agreements to changing rent plus an overage of sales.”
With an impressive array of shops, the family believes the flow of traffic has been enhanced. “People will see the Dolce name, check it out and walk through to Jil and than Hirshleifer’s,” said Shelley Hirshleifer who is in charge of sales. “We think of it all as one store. Sales associates will help customers in all areas, ‘’ with the exception of furs and jewelry, which have separate staffs. “We monitor new customers who come in and we can tell you by week or by day how many came in and what they bought. We have been averaging 45 to 50 new customers a week, and in August, it was 75 to 85. It was amazing, it didn’t feel like summer.
“Our volume has increased significantly between our expansion of Chanel, and the Valentino, Dolce and Jil shops,” she said. “There’s a lot of excitement and new energy. People are picking up on it and sensing that something is different.”
The pact with Hirshleifer’s operating the Dolce & Gabbana shop is similar to other Hirshleifer-designer relationships. “Some of [the buy] is dictated, but must is edited,” Lori Hirshleifer explained. “They like you t o represent the collection to show the looks on the runway, but certain pieces are too over-the-top. A $20,000 evening gown might not be displayed, but would be part of a trunk show.”
Selling Jil Sander, she noted, represents catering to a different customer segment that has to be educated about the clean lines and minimalist looks. “Dolce is the opposite frame-of mind-very expressive and very out there. It’s sort of like yin and yang,” she said. Dolce & Gabbana is Hirshleifer’s second most productive vendor.
While more opportunities for Hirshleifer’s will arise within the Americana Manhasset, space there is not limited. However, asked about the possibility of putting up stores in other shopping centers, Caryn Hirshleifer said: “It isn’t something we have entertained. We basically have been really working to tweak this business. There’s an unlimited number of things we can do to better serve the customer. We can find a vendor, get administrative functions to run smoother provide better service and further develop the infrastructure to support all that and keep up with the growth. That’s where our heads are now.
By David Moin
ALTHOUGH I have lived in New York for almost two decades, I had not until recently visited the Miracle Mile in Manhasset, N.Y., a stretch of stores along Northern Boulevard anchored by the Americana Manhasset mall. Everything I knew about the Mile was limited to information gleaned from the 1980 Billy Joel song ”It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me.” It was presumably a thoroughfare on which a person might cruise after equipping one’s car with whitewall tires.
The Mile, of course, is the retail epicenter of suburban Long Island, a place where ladies from the five towns cluster on weekday afternoons and over salad greens at the Americana’s Cipollini Trattoria gossip about what they are going to wear for the high holidays. The centerpiece of the Americana is Hirshleifer’s, a regionally legendary store that is made up of high-end boutiques like Chanel, J. Mendel, Valentino and Dolce & Gabbana.
I own three pieces of Dolce & Gabbana clothing. The first is a long black velvet jacket printed with lilies, purchased at a sample sale several years ago for $85. The second is a vivid green satin evening dress from Woodbury Common, and the third is the jacket portion of a black suit my husband bought me for Christmas last year.
I used to own a fourth item: the pants that went with the suit, but in a mystery tantalizing enough to serve as a plot for an episode of ”Cold Case Files,” they were abducted from my closet.
I relished the chance to return to Dolce & Gabbana and see if there were pieces entrancing enough for me to lust after until they might turn up at a sample sale or the husband could be persuaded to drink enough hot buttered rums to forget he had ever bought me a suit there in the first place. Rather than visit the flagship store on Madison Avenue, I chose the Manhasset location because I was curious: does the expensive and often seriously seductive Dolce & Gabbana play outside 10021?
It does, and here’s why. Dolce & Gabbana sends looks down the runways every season that are either saint or sinner, Madonna (as in aesthetic-religious iconography) or Madonna (as in the singer, circa the pre-Madge days). On Madison Avenue you’ll get a lot of sinner and a bit of saint. In Manhasset you’ll get about the same amount of both, with a dash of virgin prom queen thrown in for good measure.
In a touching nod to the domestic nature of the suburbs, the Manhasset store stocks men’s clothes at the front and women’s at the back. That would never work on Madison Avenue, where men don’t often accompany women shopping, if the women are even married.
But Manhasset is a more domestic kind of place: I saw three middle-aged couples strolling the shops arm in arm on a weekday afternoon. It is so much less emasculating for a man to walk into a store in which the men’s clothes are prominently displayed at the front than for him to be led by the nose straight through the front doors to the women’s merchandise. At least in Manhasset he can pretend to look at the leather bomber jackets while his female companion heads for the goods.
Although Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana announced late last year that they had broken up as a couple, this is their 20th year designing clothing together. Among other sources, they have drawn inspiration from the grandmothers of southern Italy, from the angular suits once worn by the Mafia and from their Roman Catholicism. (Both describe themselves as credenti, or believing Catholics.)
This collection, like previous ones, mixes pieces that evoke sex and bondage with those that are pillbox-hat prim. A black corset dress with a satin front panel and lace bust and sides is $775. A white shift dress in wool is $1,150. A demure matching coat, with fur collar, is $2,995. A body-hugging floor-length gown in black stretch satin is $2,400.
Chiffon panels tease out from inside the folds of a wool skirt, but the matching cashmere sweater with pearl buttons assures its propriety. Doris Day could have worn the yellow chiffon cocktail dress with a rhinestone belt and silk rose at the waist. If she had the $5,950.
Most entrancing was a white and gold cocktail dress with rhinestone details and a matching knee-length jacket. It somehow made even me look like Jackie Onassis. At $4,700 it was a bargain, assured the sales clerk, who looked eerily like the escaped suburban housewife played by Rosanna Arquette in the 1985 movie ”Desperately Seeking Susan.” After all, she reasoned, I was getting two pieces.
Perhaps because Mr. Dolce and Mr. Gabbana tend to stroke their accessories broadly with the letters D and G in rhinestones, Rosanna Arquette brought me a slim anonymous-looking purse in gold (”Jimmy Choo” etched in tiny letters on the zipper pull) and a pair of gold sandals. (Hirshleifer’s also has a Choo boutique.)
I paused. Swooned. Perspective time. The top fifth of earners in Manhattan now make 52 times what the lowest fifth make: $365,826 compared with $7,047. Or for every dollar made by wealthy households, poor households make about 2 cents. So if rich New Yorkers are paying $4,700 for a dress and jacket, the poorest would need divine intervention to help pay for the same bargain.
Here I was on the Miracle Mile, and although I hadn’t heard Billy Joel’s ode to it in years, I could still remember the lyrics as if I had belted it out while driving my parents’ station wagon yesterday:
”Don’t you know about the new fashion honey? All you need are looks and a whole lotta money.”
Dolce & Gabbana
At Hirshleifer’s at the Americana Manhasset Mall, 2060 Northern Boulevard, Manhasset, N.Y.; (516)627-7742
ATMOSPHERE — A highly refrigerated black and white gallery.
SERVICE — Beyond the call of duty. A saleswoman cheerfully offered me a banana from her purse when I told her I was feeling hypoglycemic.
KEY LOOKS — All-saint or all-sinner.
PRICES — Expensive.
Photos: SUBURBAN RETREAT — The Dolce & Gabbana boutique, at the Americana Manhasset mall, brings a taste of Madison Avenue to the Long Island suburbs. (Photographs by Pascal Perich for The New York Times)
When the Hirshleifer family bid farewell to some of their longtime in-store boutiques, there was no question of how to utilize the space.
For the six members of the Hirshleifer family on staff, creating an expanded in-store Chanel boutique was a unanimous decision. “We always wanted to make Chanel bigger. It wasn’t even a choice,” says Lori Hirshleifer Sills, who with her mother, Lillian, handles all the buying for the store.
The new boutique measures 1,500 square feet, more than double the original area, and was designed by Peter Marino, the architect responsible for the overall design of the Americana. The airy boutique manages to capture the same qualities that make Chanel the favorite of countless clients. “It’s very modern,” says Sills, “but it still has all the grace of Chanel.” The look of the new space is completed with two boxy pink tweed chairs and a gilt-edged glass table.
The Chanel fans who frequent Hirshleifer’s are apparently uniformly thrilled. “They love the openness of it.” And that’s, of course, to say nothing of the expanded stock, particularly in terms of handbags, shoes, and sunglasses, which tend to spend very little time resting on shelves before flying out the door. With such a following, Sills indicates that this expansion might………”
In an effort to survive and even thrive, specialty stores are becoming more, well, special. At a time when Saks Fifth Avenue is reasserting its luxury prowess and Neiman Marcus is posting strong financial results, the independents are scrambling to do more of what they do best.
That includes providing superior service, discovering and introducing talented designers and unique merchandise, and forging relationships with designers to create exclusive products for their stores. Some specialty retailers are trying to turn their locations into sought-after destinations with amenities such as restaurants and bars. The all-important in-store boutique brings clout to a specialty store, sending the message that a designer beleives strongly in the future of the retailer.
RANKING 9th – HIRSHLEIFER’S, MANHASSET, N.Y. $18.5 MILLION
HIRSHLEIFER’S continues to tinker with its floor plan, expanding the real estate for its most popular resources and adding new designers’ products in an effort to give its loyal customers exactly what they want. A freestanding 1,800-square-foot francise Dolce & Gabbana boutique recently opened and a Jil Sander shop of the same size will be unveiled at the end of the month. The Chanel area, wildly popular with the local ladies, is doubling in size and an 800-square-foot boutique devoted to Jimmy Choo opened. The retailer is like an exclusive department store, only everything is handpicked with the customer in mind.
1- FRED SEGAL/RON HERMAN
2- MITCHELLS OF NEWPORT
4- JEFFREY NEW YORK AND ATLANTA
5- WILKES BASHFORD
6- STANLEY KORSHAK
10- LOUIS BOSTON
If eveningwear is your question, the answer is yes! We’ve expanded to create a luxurious new selling space that’s more intimate and better configured to show off our exclusive and diverse eveningwear collections, featuring Versace, Monique Lhuillier, Reem Acra, Naem Kahn, J. Mendel, Kaufman Franco, Roberto Cavalli, Badgley Mischka, CD Greene and Carolina Herrera, as well as evening newbies like Vicente Villarin.
CHANEL HAS EXPANDED
On December 20th 2008, the expansion to our existing CHANEL boutique was unveiled. With an understated palette of whites, beiges and blacks, the luxurious new space encompasses an additional 900 square feet, bringing the CHANEL boutique at Hirshleifer’s to an exciting 4000 square feet of selling space. Honed Cabouca limestone slab floors and white marble walls are prominent in this design by noted architect Peter Marino. One of only two CHANEL boutiques in the United States to include the new design motif of a central feature display wall of cantilevered white Thassos marble shelves, the expanded boutique houses our exclusive selection of handbags, accessories and shoes.
GET THE LOOK
Also within the new space, our expanded CHANEL Beauty boutique features a flawless selection of CHANEL Skin Care products and CHANEL Fragrances. Captivating color and sublime textures inspire new looks.
VERSACE OPENS AT HIRSHLEIFER’S
Designed to complement the Versace collection in a way that speaks to the modern luxury of the brand, the new shop features white clad leather walls and cabinetry of polished stainless steel, glass and white lacquer. To enhance the shopping experience, ready to wear is showcased at the front of the store, while the shop’s rear wall is dedicated to a complete display of fashion accessories. There is also a freestanding wall featuring Versace Couture Handbags. Versace is exclusively available on Long Island at Hirshleifer’s.