By  on August 22, 2005

NEW YORK — In what might seem like a marriage of strange bedfellows, Nordstrom Inc. has purchased a majority interest in Jeffrey.

As part of the deal, owner Jeffrey Kalinsky will become director of designer merchandising for women's and men's at Nordstrom. He will continue to operate his Jeffrey stores as president and chief executive officer.

The luxury designer specialty stores, Jeffrey New York and Jeffrey Atlanta, along with a Jeffrey shoe salon in Atlanta, did $35 million in sales last year.

Kalinsky and Pete Nordstrom, president of Nordstrom full-line stores, declined to discuss the purchase price; however, retail experts said the Jeffrey businesses likely fetched $40 million to $50 million.

Kalinsky was a pioneer in 1999 when he opened Jeffrey New York in a 12,000-square-foot space at 449 West 14th Street between Ninth and 10th Avenues. It was the first fashion business in the neighborhood, a temple to high style with collections from Gucci, Jil Sander, Helmut Lang, Jean Paul Gaultier, Alexander McQueen, Ann Demeulemeester, Balenciaga and Dries Van Noten.

At first glance, Kalinsky and Nordstrom might seem like an odd match. Kalinsky is a downtown denizen and standard bearer of the avant garde, given to wearing shirts in florescent colors, while Nordstrom is buttoned up. They were on the same wavelength, however, on Friday morning as they sat around a table in Kalinsky's office discussing the newly consummated deal, which is being announced today.

"For me, the excitement is being a part of Nordstrom," said Kalinsky in an exclusive interview. He will report to Nordstrom, as do Sue Patneaude, executive vice president of designer apparel, David Whitman, executive vice president of men's and Margaret Myers, vice president of main floor accessories.

"The motivation was recognizing what a talent Jeffrey is," Nordstrom said. "If there was any way that we could work together, I wanted to make it happen. Designer has been our top-growing category. This demonstrates our commitment to designer. We want to grow it and work at it. We're going to carry a broader array of products."

Nordstrom — which has 95 full-line stores — wants to build its designer business, which continues to fuel its strong performance. The company reported a 39.3 percent jump in second-quarter profits to $148.9 million, exceeding analysts' estimates by a nickel. Sales, meanwhile, rose 7.8 percent to $2.1 billion.

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