By  on September 28, 2007

CHEVY CHASE, Md. — Bloomingdale's swept into town Wednesday with its New York attitude and a more balanced mix of contemporary, modern and classic merchandise compared with certain locations, such as SoHo and San Francisco, where the store can read edgier. "We're not intimidating," said Michael Gould, Bloomingdale's chairman and chief executive. "What we have is approachable luxury — the kind of better merchandise that makes people feel good."

Several designer and contemporary brands have also seeped into this community within the last year or so, including Cusp, Louis Vuitton and Barneys Co-op, joining Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Lord & Taylor, which have all been here for decades. Still, the fashionable set attending Bloomingdale's opening party Tuesday night to benefit the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts made it clear that stores like Bloomingdale's are long overdue and that the region's reputation for conservative dressing lingers on.

"I was just in Beverly Hills and believe me, we are far more conservative," said an Akris-clad Annette Lerner, the wife of Ted Lerner, owner of the Washington Nationals and White Flint mall, where there is another Bloomingdale's. "We do have our own Madison Avenue here but it's just a couple of blocks as opposed to 25. We have a wonderful Saks here, too, but it's small."

"Women and men here are very fashion-conscious and definitely have a good eye, but they're risk averse," said Marie Mattson, the Center's vice president for development.

"In my circle, it's changed," said Krista Bullion, a luxury brand manager for Washington Magazine, who said she came directly from work to the party but typically goes out in a short Tory Burch dress with stilettos and a clutch. "Washington has a bad rap. People like to dress trendy and look fabulous."

Compared with the local competition, Bloomingdale's, at 5300 Western Avenue, is relatively big with 182,000 square feet and a wider range including home products, men's and women's apparel, cosmetics, accessories and several new concepts. There's a compact home department that cross merchandises tabletop, crystal and furniture in vignettes for modern or traditional looks. A similar lifestyle approach is evident in men's, where dress shirts, ties and suits are outfitted. The aisles are spacious and filled with seating areas; fitting rooms are large, and fancy glasswork denotes the bridal registry, intimate apparel and personal shopping departments. "We have a wider breadth of merchandise," Gould said. "We're more eclectic and we can mix things differently."What's ahead for Bloomingdale's? "Much more expansion," stated Terry Lundgren, chairman, ceo and president of parent company Macy's Inc. "We feel very bullish."

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