By  on February 7, 2008

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Elie Tahari is basking in the sun for his sixth freestanding store.

Tahari opened a 2,100-square-foot boutique last month in the Town Center at Boca Raton mall, near Saks Fifth Avenue, Intermix and Juicy Couture. The unit is the first in Tahari's 25-store expansion plan for the U.S. within the next five years, which will be in conjunction with the same rollout and schedule internationally through partnerships, including one with Unitim to build branches in Turkey and Romania.

Tahari, the company's chairman and chief executive officer, said the retail expansion doesn't affect the wholesale business, which includes more than 600 U.S. accounts. "Sales across the board become even more amazing when we open a company store because it creates brand awareness," he said.

Tahari said the opportunity with Simon Property Group, which owns Town Center, was mutual. Florida generates sales right behind New York and California, and accounts with Bloomingdale's, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue in Boca Raton appeared exceptionally strong. The city's rising population of affluent professionals and young parents works into Tahari's customer base.

"This mall is where this crowd shops," he said, while also keeping an eye on South Beach and Bal Harbour Shops for a prime space.

The Boca Raton store's first-year sales might be as much as $3 million.

The second store to feature Italian architect and interior designer Piero Lissoni's collaborative prototype, the Boca Raton unit combines the East Hampton flagship's Venetian plaster, and glass cases and shelves with accents such as taupe stone floors and hanging bars made from modern, blackened steel. Lissoni also customized its crystal chandeliers and furniture. Tahari purchased pieces during December's Art Basel.

The store offers women's ready-to-wear, men's rtw and accessories, and Tahari predicts women's eveningwear will resonate especially well considering the market's plentiful weddings and bar mitzvahs. The unit offers spring dresses including an Empire scoopneck with a pleated skirt in gold-tinted cream silk for $398 retail; a pleated halter in white or black jersey, $368, and yet another pleated look with spaghetti straps in crinkled chiffon in black or deep purple, $398.

"All our own stores also offer 20 to 30 percent exclusives that aren't available at department stores or multibrand boutiques," Tahari said.They include a clutch in mustard or marine blue ostrich retailing at $1,195, as well as the same style in sage or navy python, for $895. Exclusive jewelry, scarves and pareos also are carried, but there's no swimwear, which hasn't been added yet to Tahari's growing empire.

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