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NEW YORK — With a bit of vision and almost $1 million for reconstruction, the suburban Ms’tique fashion store was recast in a former supermarket space to be a distinctive, urban-like retail setting.

“We were busting out of the old location, so we moved four stores away in the same shopping center, went upscale and added some very contemporary sportswear,” said Rose Rivera, owner of Ms’tique. “Now I have my dream store.”

The new site, at 7935 Jericho Turnpike in Woodbury, N.Y., on Long Island, opened in September and is 6,000 square feet, including 3,500 square feet for selling. The store is tracking 20 percent higher in sales and should do $4 million to $5 million after its first year, Rivera said.

The 11-year-old Ms’tique has always operated in The Woodbury Village strip center, but in a space half the size of the new unit. Still, for Horst Design International, a store design firm in Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., also on Long Island, the new space was still tight.

The challenge was to create a spacious, high-end environment for Rivera’s designer apparel that would segment the merchandise by collection. In addition, the goal was to draw shoppers all the way through the store, despite the narrow and deep dimensions — 29 by 100 feet — and limited frontage.

“We didn’t have the whole supermarket, only a section to work with,” said Douglas Horst, president of Horst Design. A few other upscale businesses, including an Elizabeth Arden Red Door salon and a George Martin steak house, also are taking pieces of the former supermarket.

The proportions of the Ms’tique space are typical in retail, requiring store designers to develop compelling architectural and visual elements to stimulate traffic flow, Horst said.

“While the obstacles are familiar, the solutions for each particular retailer are different,” said Horst, who has done designs for Macy’s, Century 21 and Eastern Mountain Sports, among other retailers.

In the case of Ms’tique, Horst decided to break up the perimeter walls into a series of spaces for each designer. There are eight custom-made, diamond-patterned backlit steel grids for displays, four on each side of the store. Each is 12 feet tall and has sockets for screwing in hardware to support hang rods, face-outs, waterfalls, shelves and other fixtures to display merchandise in different ways. The grids are visually tied together by sweeping architectural arches extending from one side of the store to the other, 14 feet tall at their apex.

This story first appeared in the January 12, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Between the arches are 15 floating ceiling planes, for further visual interest and contrast. There are also Mondrian-like wall cutouts that frame the merchandise in interesting ways. The store is painted in shades of pale green gray, for a muted palette that enables the merchandise to stand out. More often, stores are painted in shades of white.

Down the center of the space, there is a stone floor flanked by two bands of Brazilian cherry wood leading shoppers deeper into the store.

However, the focal point has to be the large, circular customer service desk with a Ms’tique logo in brushed stainless steel and a shimmering metal scrim.

“Rosie was willing to create an environment unlike others in her marketplace,” Horst said. “Often, retailers don’t want to take a chance, but they really need to create an environment if they want to build a brand and establish loyal clientele.”  

The 48-year-old Rivera has been a retailer for 26 years, with the first part of her career spent operating stores in Queens, N.Y., that catered to middle- and working-class populations. Her scene is much different now. Ms’tique is ensconced in an affluent area and caters to 30-to-65-year-old women by selling collections such as Nanette Lepore, Theory, Hugo Boss, Tahari, Diane von Furstenberg, Cynthia Steffe and TeenFlo. Sizes zero to 16 are offered.

The relocation, growth and additional costs haven’t come at the expense of service, Rivera said. “It’s a bigger, fancier place, but we still have personal shoppers,’’ she said.

“They visit clients at home and we also have a VIP area with private fitting rooms. Customers get whatever they want to drink. There’s a seamstress ready if they need a nip and a pull, and we have [the garment] ready the next day. We take care of our customers, top to bottom, accessories to ready-to-wear.” 

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