By  on March 18, 1994

LONG ISLAND CITY, N.Y. -- Ruthless Health & Beauty Aids is breaking the rules.

While most of the nation's drugstores uniformly feature straight shelves and white tile floors, this new drugstore flouts convention with a provocative name, crooked shelves and a mosaic floor made of glass from crushed light bulbs. The 2,000-square-foot store is decorated entirely with recycled materials.

A junked fire extinguisher, painted to resemble a lipstick tube, hangs from the ceiling. An old hot water heater has been recast as a toothpaste tube. All the shelves holding the usual drugstore products are angled."We wanted to make it look askew. You might even need to buy some Dramamine," joked J.J. Veronis, one of the store's designers.

"At first we wanted to have regular shelves like any other drugstore," said Kung S. Kim, owner of Ruthless Health & Beauty Aids. "Then the designers came to us and suggested we make it match the rest of the building." Straight metal shelves were pulled, and recycled grids, splashed with red paint, were brought in.

Opened three months ago, Ruthless became the first retail entry in a former Macy's warehouse here that is being transformed into a shopping mall.

The warehouse, now owned by Corporate Life Insurance and SIG Partners, will eventually house other retail establishments, a restaurant and a food court.

The designers of the mall think it will appeal to customers from the entire New York market, visitors who might be drawn as much by the ambience and the art as the products.

Several other parts of the shopping center are expected to open before the end of the year. "People today want something different when they go shopping," Veronis said. "They want entertainment and we see this as a way to bring art to a commercial environment."

Currently the upper floors of the 1 million-square-foot structure are occupied by 2,000 office workers, comprising most of Ruthless's clientele.

"We're open to the public, but until other stores open, most customers come to shop at lunch or before going to work upstairs," said Kim.

Kim is experimenting with her mix to determine what customers want. The building's tenants are an ethnically diverse group, including Hasidic Jews, Koreans, Hispanics, Chinese and African-Americans.

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