By  on September 30, 2010

T. Anthony has tried to make the most of the economic downturn.

The family-owned luxury luggage and accessories firm shut its Short Hills, N.J., shop last year and during the summer pumped up its Manhattan store at 455 Park Avenue, near 56th Street, with an eight-week, top-to-bottom overhaul. The 3,000-square-foot space re-opened this month with elegant brass and walnut fixtures and marble floors, replacing the dated corporate green decor. There is brass lattice work in the windows to help frame the displays and a center focal area with a large table to lay out the canvas and leather-trim luggage.

“We were overdue. Our last renovation was 12 years ago,” said Michael Root, owner, president and grandson of Theodore Anthony, who founded the business in 1946 and learned the trade by designing luggage sets at Saks Fifth Avenue.

“The economy has been very challenging, but it’s created some opportunities,” Root said. “There’s value in construction jobs. We wanted a modern design that conveys serenity, privacy and obviously, luxury.”

The goal is to lift business, which Root said was improving even before the project.

The company generates $8 million in annual revenues through the Park Avenue store, and Internet sales, though the reputation seems bigger. The brand is known for durable, classic styles and for selling to top political figures and their wives, including the Reagans and the Nixons, as well as celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, who chose vibrant red luggage, and Elton John, who never travels light. The singer has 300 pieces from T. Anthony, according to the company.

Prices start at $350 for a duffel bag, and go as high as $15,000 for a carry-on in alligator with wheels. Other items include “one-suiters” with wheels, $695; trunks, $3,600, and soft ladies messenger bags and shoulder bags in woven lambskin, priced at $450 and $695. Small leather goods and gifts, such as jewelry boxes, corporate desk accessories and poker sets are also sold. Products can be monogrammed for no extra charge, and there is a repair department on the premises.

With the renovation complete, Root said the next project is rebuilding the Web site for easier navigation and enhanced visuals. He’s also considering opening two stores, in San Francisco and London. But for now, there’s just the one store on Park Avenue. “We don’t think the measure of success is the size of the company,” Root said.

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