By  on March 1, 2006

NEW YORK — Mulberry, the British apparel and accessories firm, has found a jewel box-size — 500-square-foot — space in lower Manhattan for its first U.S. store, a person close to the transaction said. The unit is at 387 Bleecker Street.

A company spokeswoman declined to comment.

Juicy Couture is said to be close to joining the quaint neighborhood by leasing 368 Bleecker Street, someone familiar with the deal said. The building, which housed Hue restaurant, has 1,300 square feet of retail space on the ground floor and 5,700 square feet on the mezzanine.

Bleecker Street in the last five years has evolved from neighborhood shopping area of mom-and-pop stores and casual restaurants to an upscale retail strip with an emphasis on designer accessories and fashion. Marc Jacobs pioneered there when he opened a store in 2003. He now has three storefronts, including an accessories and shoe store at 385 Bleecker. An accessories-only Ruehl store opened in November at 370. Other denizens of Bleecker are Cynthia Rowley at 376, Ralph Lauren at 380, Lulu Guinness at 394, Olive and Bette's at 384 and Intermix at 365.

Mulberry has been in a steady turnaround since 2002, when new management stepped in to stem years of losses and hammer out a viable growth strategy. The company had sales of $33.2 million in the first quarter ended Sept. 30, a 58 percent increase over the same year-ago period, when sales were $21.1 million.

Wholesale volume accounts for about half of the company's turnover; the rest comes from Mulberry's own stores.

The firm has four freestanding units in London and also sells to Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Selfridges and House of Fraser. The brand is scheduled to open its first Edinburgh shop, a second store in Thailand and a unit in Taiwan this month.

In the U.S., Mulberry is sold at Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys New York and select Neiman Marcus stores.

Mulberry handbags are often photographed on the shoulders of celebrities. Kate Moss, Sienna Miller and Scarlett Johansson are among the fans of the distressed leather bags. The company has been expanding its product range with men's wear and furniture, classically shaped sofas and chairs covered in wool, chenille and damask. Mulberry also produced Giles Deacon's first handbag collection, which was sold at Mulberry stores.

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