Volume 73, Number 52 | April 28 - May 4, 2004

More than just a new store; Bloomie’s opens in Soho

By Elizabeth O’Brien

Villager photos by Elisabeth Robert

A band helped celebrate last Saturday’s opening of the Soho Bloomingdale’s, where Senator Chuck Schumer dropped by to look at the ties and suits. State Senator Martin Connor and Kwame Jackson, the runner-up on the reality TV show “The Apprentice,” also attended the opening.

The line snaked four times around metal barriers set up on Broadway in Soho on Saturday. Beefy men in black suits controlled the well-dressed crowd. It wasn’t a party at the latest chic nightclub. Bloomingdale’s was open for business.

The upscale department store has installed a Downtown branch at 504 Broadway, between Spring and Broome Sts., in a landmark cast-iron building that used to house Canal Jeans. The five-story, 90,000-sq.-ft. location is the retailer’s second Manhattan location, after its longtime flagship at 59th St. and Lexington Ave.

With its Soho outpost, Bloomingdale’s is targeting a younger, hipper consumer. So far, their strategy seems to be working.

“It’s great — I love it,” said Michelle Perry, 25, who lives nearby and picked up lounge pants, a T-shirt and a wrap on her first visit. “It’s a little more trendy and less conservative” than the Uptown Bloomingdale’s.

More than one shopper praised the store’s design, a blend of sleek white and metal details with touches such as exposed brick arches, tin ceilings and metal stars indicating a historic structure. On the ground floor, towering glass vases held a tangle of cherry blossom branches.

“I like how everything is very open,” said Nicole Belgiorno, 18, an N.Y.U. freshman.

“It’s such a nice place to work — the light makes it,” said Lisa Jackson, 24, a makeup artist at the Lancome counter. Jackson transferred from a Bloomingdale’s in White Plains but said most sales associates at the Soho store were new to the chain.

The Soho Bloomie’s features hot young designers such as Zac Posen, a merchandising decision not lost on the customers.

“I’m glad it’s come Downtown and changed the vibe a little bit,” said Jennifer, 35, who works in the neighborhood and said she would never shop at the Uptown Bloomingdale’s.

Some longtime Soho residents viewed the new Bloomingdale’s a little more skeptically.

“There are far too many people down here,” said Robin Goldberg, 49, a resident of Broome St. for 28 years, as she waited in line to get into the store on Saturday. “Also, it’s dangerous,” she said of the jam-packed sidewalk in front of the store.

Goldberg said her 13-year-old daughter visited the store earlier in the day with friends.

“She must’ve not seen anything, because she didn’t call me for money,” Goldberg laughed.

Sean Sweeney, director of the Soho Alliance, said the store’s arrival is contributing to the “sterilization” and “homogenization” of the neighborhood.

“Soho still has a lot of cutting-edge artists who disdain mass culture,” Sweeney said. He said residents also worried about the crowds and trash the store was expected to generate.

Even so, Sweeney acknowledged Bloomingdale’s had made a genuine effort to communicate with its neighbors.

“Although there are problems, they are one of the most community-responsive stores to come to Soho in 10 years,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney noted that the store’s arrival recalled the Soho of the 19th century, when Lord & Taylor had a store in the neighborhood and Macy’s was located in the Village.

The building’s granite exterior has also been nicely restored to sparkling white from its former dingy gray. Last Wednesday, as the store was being readied for its weekend opening, painters were putting a coat of white on resin casts of historic filigrees that had been restored to the tops of the columns.

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