By  on May 12, 2006

DALLAS — J. Crew christened its first Crewcuts children's store, a 1,400-square-foot prototype at NorthPark Center here designed to look like a New England seaside cottage — complete with a mini lighthouse.

Inside the green-trimmed double-glass front door the lighthouse beckons shoppers. The beachside preppy milieu continues with pale blue and white awning stripe window shades, small chaise longue chairs, blond hardwood floors and nautical props such as sand shovels, red or white clam buckets and fishing poles. The store's pristine white beadboard exterior is mirrored inside with white display shelves and tables and blue and green walls.

The Crewcuts storefront doesn't display the J. Crew name, and instead has the slogan "the clothes you love (slightly smaller)" stenciled on a window under the Crewcuts name.

Designed for girls and boys ages two to eight, Crewcuts follows the style of J. Crew adult collections, with iconic argyle sweaters, patchwork madras jackets, cashmere sweaters and denim and chino pants. Merchandise retails from about $12.50 for a fuchsia tank top to $148 for a lightweight jacket or silk faille party dress.

For spring, there are tropical bright piqué polos, rugby shirts, silk floral dresses, Liberty prints and even some trendy pouf-skirt dresses. In keeping with J. Crew's beach inspirations, there are also kids' Wellington boots and small "Montauk" totes.

Early bestsellers include items from Crewcuts' whimsical "critters" collection of embroidered and printed animal motifs. That theme is played up in wall displays of "Henry," a stuffed dog dressed to reflect beach destinations. For the Dallas store, there also is a red, white and blue "Lone Star" Henry.

"Our customers really wanted Crewcuts," J. Crew's chairman and chief executive officer, Millard "Mickey" Drexler, said Wednesday during a promotional tour of the unit, which had a soft opening May 2. "It was in the top-five request list from J.Crew shoppers. We are going after a J. Crew style that our customers really love for themselves and want for their kids."

The second Crewcuts store is to open in mid-July at The Westchester mall in White Plains, N.Y. Others are to follow later in the year or in early 2007. Locations are being decided, Drexler said.

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