By  on August 13, 2007

MIAMI BEACH — Macy's is on a mission here.

Macy's Florida reopened its South Beach store at 1675 Meridian Avenue Saturday with great fanfare after a major seven-figure renovation and remerchandising in concurrence with its researched demographics. The store had been closed since March.

To hear Robert Unger, senior vice president of store design and visual presentation, describe the project's physical changes and modern retail strategies is exciting for a community that relies on one department store, and marks a definite departure from the division's 61 locations throughout Florida and Puerto Rico.

"The South Beach store is a unique entity. There is no prototype," he said of the 1953 freestanding building between Lincoln Road and the Miami Beach Convention Center that initially housed Burdines until Macy's folded the Florida chain into its fleet. "Our goal was to restore it back to the original, Fifties modern intent."

The layout alone is progressive, as Unger reports it's the company's smallest, two-story branch in Florida with approximately 90,000 square feet of selling space. The interior was gutted, save the elevator and expensive Sheetrock ceiling, rare by today's standards, according to Unger, sculpted on the first floor to replicate the Gulf Stream.

"The decoration was too important to demolish. It's by Raymond Loewy, a famous, midcentury industrial designer who created the store's interiors," said Unger.

The exterior was wholly restored to architect Robert Law Weed's design, such as reopening darkened windows along 17th Street for 30 percent more glass frontage; cleaning up the two-foot, stainless steel fascia; replacing hurricane shutters with hurricane glass to expose the formerly concealed canopy, and repainting in a historically accurate soft white. More novelties are its rosy marble facade and famous "Sunshine Fashions" sign in white neon.

"It's the only Macy's with the original Burdines marketing handle, which the city was very supportive in us keeping," said Unger.

The Fifties ode rolls on with midcentury-inspired, decorative accessories such as Sputnik chandeliers that line the widened main aisle; clusters of tropically colored, odd-shaped vases that top glass cases, and the odd prop, from tub chairs to Vespas to Loewy's framed, fanciful sketches. Unger looked to the Fifties' palette in choosing department hues such as ice pink for cosmetics, coral for women's ready-to-wear and parrot green for women's shoes.Each section has individual flair. Though white, polished porcelain tile runs along much of the two floors, the men's Polo shop has pine planks, and cosmetics features a pink marble stripe. At the store's request for an unobstructed view and classic setup, cosmetics vendors complied with lowering partitions to a 42-inch height. Unger reports its new inventory boasts Chanel's and Shiseido's first South Beach doors and Macy's premiere Bobbi Brown shop-in-shop in South Florida.

"Branding is big. We let the customer know where to find goods, whether Calvin Klein, our largest vendor here across the board, Lacoste or Lancôme," said Unger.

All sections were relocated except shoes due to the stockroom, and home was removed altogether to make room for the second floor's swimwear, intimates and women's, junior and children's apparel. Women's rtw additions are Michael Michael Kors, Lauren by Ralph Lauren and Paris Hilton's junior collection, along with an expanded selection of dresses and the company's private label, INC. The shoe department doubled in size with a better assortment including Marc by Marc Jacobs, Coach and Betsey Johnson.

For shoes, geometric carpeting and comfortable side chairs in black and white or green and white fall in line with the decor's retro eclectic trend influenced by interior designers such as David Hicks, Jonathan Adler and Kelly Wearstler. More contemporary-patterned carpet appears in pale blue and beige in women's rtw, and intimates follows the Venetian mirror craze with etched leaf motifs on mirrors with ornate frames. Assortment is better, as well, with lines such as Wacoal, Jezebel and Jenni.

"We decorated intimates to be very feminine with glass jars of butter yellow and pale pink rose petals, soft draping and sensuous mannequins," said Unger.

Melissa Goff, operating vice president of events, marketing and public relations for Macy's Florida, said the company expects significant increases due to more upscale merchandise, but wouldn't divulge sales estimates.

"We want this store to be our fashion icon, and let people know we're back and we're hot," said Unger.

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