Like many others in the industry, we were skeptical of Limelight Marketplace when it opened last summer in Chelsea's Episcopal cathedral-turned-nightclub on Sixth Avenue. But owner Jack Menashe lured big brands like Hunter Boots and LeSportSac to the space, and buzz picked up rather quickly.
Now, a year in, things have taken a turn. Hunter Boots and LeSportSac are among the handful of brands that have exited the space, and on Monday, WWD announced Menashe's plan to overhaul the four-level, $20 million project in favor of a $4 million new renovation spotlighting a three-level department store to be completed this September. We wondered what the current vendors had to say about Menashe's proposal.
"We have no clue about the changes going on here," says one second-floor shopgirl, who was as surprised as we were to see neighbors like Cult of Individuality staffed and open last week, but gone days later. Amid reports of labels soon to arrive at the Marketplace (including Charlotte Ronson, Rogan, and "30 different brands" of designer jeans), present vendors voiced frustration.
"It's hard to say anything if we don't have answers ourselves," another shopgirl told us, revealing that she was hoping to learn more at a "big vendor meeting" with management Friday. If things don't play out, she plans to revert to her former selling model—hosting Flatiron pop-up shops—this fall.
Alexander West designer Alex Yoo wasn't interested in waiting on Menashe's re-revamp: He vacated his mezzanine-level space this earlier this spring after foot traffic and sales didn't meet Limelight's original projections.
"Yes, Limelight may be 30,000 square feet and cool to look at, but it's handicapped for retail," says Yoo, who currently sells his $145-range custom shirts at UES lifestyle emporium Therapie New York and is planning to open a shop in Soho this fall.
Rather than increasing the number of vendors and decreasing their size, Yoo's advice would be to give less featured vendors more space: "There's no way to build 'up' where high-end vendors should be in the center, so you're considering a second and third floor that are essentially dead zones for shoppers."
We reached out to Menashe via on-site management but have yet to hear back with clarification on what his new vision will mean for existing shops. Based on his recent references to L.A. lifestyle emporium Fred Segal and a "one-vision feel" it seems likely that existing stores are facing the prospect of downsized square footage —or no exclusive square footage at all.
Related stories on The Feast:
The Conversation: A Specialty Denim Shop Talks Japan Fallout