NEW YORK — Fashion has a foothold deep in the heart of Brooklyn here.
Since September, Steev West Fourth, a 10,000-square-foot specialty store, has been bringing luxury designers to Gravesend, one of Brooklyn's oldest neighborhoods, tucked just north of Coney Island and southeast of Bensonhurst.
"Our idea was to bring Madison Avenue to Brooklyn and draw customers from downtown Brooklyn and downtown Manhattan," said Elliott Betesh, who is financing the store with other investors.
Steev West Fourth is an outgrowth of Steev 19, a boutique that Steev Eitdelberg operated in the late Eighties in Deal, N.J., an upscale beach town on the Jersey shore. Eitdelberg developed a following among Gravesend's fast-growing Syrian Jewish community, many of whom vacation in Deal during the summer. Betesh became aware of Eitdelberg when the Steev 19 owner launched a collection for men and women called PRPS that Betesh sold at his Dr. Jay's chain.
"Steev's wife passed away in 1997 and he ran into some bad luck," Betesh recalled. "He lost the business after 20 years."
Two years ago, Betesh approached Eitdelberg about opening a new location. "I asked him to move to Brooklyn," Betesh said. "I said we'd back him [financially] and open a store for him."
Steev West Fourth, located at 355 Kings Highway and West Fourth Street, cost more than $1 million to build and "took over a year to complete," Betesh said. "My Dr. Jay's stores take 60 to 90 days to build....We plan to take [this concept] to Manhattan, Miami, Los Angeles and Las Vegas" and open a second unit in the next year, Betesh said.
Steev and Dr. Jay's have about as much in common as rap music and the opera. Dr. Jay's features urban fashion labels such as JLO by Jennifer Lopez, Baby Phat, Charlotte Ronson, Frankie B. and Custo Barcelona sold in a no-frills environment. Steev carries Proenza Schouler, Ports 1961 and 3.1 Phillip Lim, among other designers. There are handbags, beauty, jewelry and sunglasses by Tom Ford. A lifestyle area sells CDs and Assouline and Taschen books.Several departments are leased, including the shoe area, which is operated by Chuckies, an Upper East Side boutique selling Jimmy Choo, Miu Miu and Dolce & Gabbana. Betesh said he hopes to lease space to a hair salon.
Prices range from $500 for J. Godfried party dresses to $1,200 for a Ports 1961 dress. Sweaters by 3.1 Phillip Lim are $300 to $500; Ksubi jeans, $285; Gold Sign jeans, $168; Rebecca Minkoff handbags, $700; Devi Kroell handbags, $1,200; Loutre Chose shoes, $400, and Loeffler Randall shoes, $700.
Marlee Cohen, Steev's women's buyer, helped design the store. She picked pebbled tiles for the floor in the women's casual section and a high-gloss white floor for the designer area. In men's, there is a high-gloss black floor with zebra wood accents. Fixtures are streamlined and practical, with shoes and handbags displayed in white cubbies. Furniture has a Sixties bent, including the hanging Lucite egg chairs, black-and-white S chairs and a white tufted daybed topped with a zebra-print throw. Cohen kept the environment neutral so the clothes would stand out, allowing accents such as red chairs and bright flowers to pop.
"We know our clients shop at Henri Bendel, Barneys New York and Jeffrey New York," Cohen said. "We wanted this to be like a mini department store."
She works young designers into the assortment to keep the offering interesting. "I try to buy things you don't find in every store," she said. "New and upcoming designers keep the store a little edgy and fun." She cited Los Angeles-based Ghia, a collection designed by the wife of Kanye West. "It's very fashion-forward and vintage-y with high-waisted pants."
The store, which Betesh estimated will generate first-year sales of $5 million, also offers M Missoni, Rozae Nichols, Geren Ford, Tucker and Inhabit.
Cohen said she and Eitdelberg searched for a location in an up-and-coming neighborhood. "We chose West Street because there wasn't anything around there," she said. "It's a destination. Hopefully, the store will be a catalyst for change for the neighborhood."
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