By  on March 25, 2005

NEW YORK — Gucci, Ungaro, Calvin Klein — indeed, Madison Avenue boutiques cater to those who know how to take care of themselves. And next month, in the heart of Manhattan’s shopping mecca, a new store looks to provide the well-heeled with something not previously for sale here: a new way of living.

Beginning April 5 at 791 Madison Avenue, one can buy into the philosophy derived by Nicholas Perricone. The famed dermatologist and antiage guru pitches a three-tiered regimen of diet, nutritional supplements and products in order to achieve brighter, firmer skin, while also maintaining overall good health.

The two-story, 2,100-square-foot N.V. Perricone M.D. Flagship Lifestyle Center occupies the former Anne Fontaine space, and is meant to be an education center, not a retail powerhouse. It is a place where women and men can learn more about the doctor’s anti-inflammatory lifestyle concept and nutritional antiaging strategies, which suggest eating foods rich in healthy fats, such as salmon, and limiting items Perricone contends are pro-inflammatory, such as coffee and beef.

On this day, at 10:30 a.m., Perricone had already consumed a drink made with polysaccharide peptide, a piece of salmon, berries, pomegranate juice and some of his Perricone Jasmine Tea, flavored with a full packet of Splenda. One of three nutritionists at his modern store — appointed with dark wood and white Italian stone floors — serves guests a tray of clementines and almonds, both Perricone-approved foods.

“A lot of this science can be painful to learn,” Perricone admitted, which is the reason behind opening the center.

Instead of treatments, the store offers health advice; rather than pushing product, it sells a philosophy. The concept isn’t quite new for the wellness industry — industry pioneer Howard Murad has a somewhat similar endeavor in El Segundo, Calif. The noted L.A. dermatologist has for 20 years evolved his dermatology practice to become the Murad Center for Inclusive Health, a place that offers spa treatments, dietician consultations and lifestyle coaching, all based on Murad’s “water principal,” which follows that aging is due to a lack of water in body tissue. There clients can purchase Murad’s book, product line and supplements, as well as lifestyle programs that include an exercise regime.“I was the original person to come up with a concept like this,” Murad said. “[Perricone’s retail endeavor] is not anything new to me.”

Between his TV appearances and Madison Avenue address, Perricone often attracts controversy, namely for his lack of peer review on his anti-inflammatory concept and products. But Perricone extends a philosophical approach to the negativity.

“At the end of the day I am a physician and I am here to help people take better care of themselves and to live longer and healthier lives.”

Perhaps though, Perricone’s retail twist is that his version has a fancy address and a certain cachet that appeals as easily to seniors as it does to young celebrities. His PBS-TV specials — a station not usually viewed by the hip crowd — claims to have raised more than $16 million during membership drives. But at the same time, according to a VH-1 clip shown on one of the store’s three plasma TVs, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, Courteney Cox and Jennifer Lopez are among his fans, too. A back door on 67th Street was built to accommodate such A-Listers.

Though Perricone is indeed selling a lifestyle, the truth is that consumers will ultimately need to purchase many of his branded products to help them be successful at it. His name can be found on four books, DVDs, lotions, creams, serums, nutritional supplements and now, wild Alaskan salmon ($16), sealed in gold pouches, caught “by Alaskan families with boats in their houses,” said Perricone, who also has branded olive oil ($32) and jasmine tea ($30) to round out the shopping list. Prices for the beauty items can get expensive: A Nutritive Cleanser retails for $35, while the Neuropeptide Facial Conformer— billed as a “facelift in a jar” — sells for $570.

While Perricone, who is certified by the American Board of Dermatology and completed his internship in pediatrics at Yale Medical School and his dermatology residency at Ford Medical Center, jokes that he’s not in the grocery business, he is serious about getting these food items into people’s houses: Food delivery is included in the price of his three-day and 28-day plans, which cost $450 and $2,000, respectively. The $450 plan includes a 30-minute consultation, where a client meets with a well-versed Perricone nutritionist and his or her medical history and health habits are examined. A three-day program is customized and prescribed. The program is suggested as a great way to prepare for special occasions, such as a wedding. The $2,000 version also includes a 30-minute consultation, as well as four weekly follow-ups and food delivery. Appointments may be made but walk-ins are welcome.What’s also serious is the number of consultations that must be sold throughout the year to make Perricone’s “$2 million view” profitable — Perricone said he owns nearly all of his empire, which roughly reaches $50 million. According to sources familiar with Madison Avenue rents, the store would need to generate about $1 million in its first year just to break even.

Marcie Krempel, executive vice president of N.V. Perricone, M.D. Ltd., acknowledges that branding is part of being on Madison Avenue. That’s why the space with extraordinarily large windows was chosen in the first place. To take advantage of this feature, the store boasts a reverse screen projection system, which can be viewed from both in and outside the store, and even from across the street at the Emanuel Ungaro boutique.

The store’s audio/visual system is almost as sophisticated as its lighting, Krempel said, explaining that a lighting consultant was brought in to make sure it was up to Perricone’s standards.

“The appearance of the skin is an indicator of what is happening inside the body,” Krempel said, referring to one of Perricone’s mantras.

Regular personal appearances by Perricone are expected to drive store traffic — he lives in nearby Madison, Conn. On Thursdays, the store will host seminars about the Perricone program. 

A red leather wall was installed along the store’s staircase, with the hopes of luring customers upstairs.

The first floor consists of a retail area and a consultation room. The second floor also has products on display, as well as a reading area equipped with Perricone’s  books, “The Perricone Promise,” “The Perricone Prescription,” “A Physician’s 28 Day Program for Total Body and Face Rejuvenation” and “The Wrinkle Cure.” There are also DVDs featuring his PBS appearances, as well as various medical journals and newsletters from Harvard and Tufts universities. Upstairs also has two consultation rooms and a plasma TV that loops Perricone’s appearances from “The Oprah Winfrey Show” to his placement on VH-1’s “Fabulous Life Fabulous 40” list of hot things for 2004. His “facelift in a jar” ranks number 17.And, Perricone is really only getting started. A future retail site is being scouted in Los Angeles, and he is considering opening similar centers in Las Vegas, Chicago and South Florida. He plans to open between five and seven centers over the next three to five years. In October, Perricone is launching a new book, “The Perricone Weight Loss Promise,” and in May, a new PBS special begins filming. He also already has an idea for a sixth book, which deals with children and new moms, an area that will have Perricone revisit lessons from his internship in pediatrics. 

What’s reassuring is that the type-A Perricone doesn’t claim that his self-made lifestyle is absolute. From time to time he enjoys pizza, an indulgence he said is less pleasing nowadays because his body isn’t really used to “eating like that.” However, he admits he is more acceptable of animal fats in one’s daily diet than he was several years ago.

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