Nike Said Eyeing

NEW YORK -- Nike is thinking small.<P>The athletic footwear and apparel giant based in Beaverton, Ore., is reportedly closing in on a 2,300-square-foot space in NoLIta. It's a far cry from the company's gargantuan 95,000-square-foot NikeTown in...

NEW YORK — Nike is thinking small.

This story first appeared in the June 10, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The athletic footwear and apparel giant based in Beaverton, Ore., is reportedly closing in on a 2,300-square-foot space in NoLIta. It’s a far cry from the company’s gargantuan 95,000-square-foot NikeTown in Trump Tower, where its flagship brand is featured amid a juggernaut of interactive displays.

Judging by its neighbors, the downtown store would be a bit more funky. With Brian McNally’s new Cafe Lebowitz on Spring Street (named after humorist Fran), NoLIta continues to attract trendy customers nostalgic for SoHo’s creative heyday, before such chains as Sunglass Hut and Victoria’s Secret took over.

NoLIta encompasses parts of Little Italy and Chinatown and the boundaries sometimes blur. Nike is said to be considering a space at 255 Elizabeth Street, which was a former fish market.

“We are actively considering a number of spaces in Manhattan,” said a Nike spokeswoman, but she declined to comment on specific locations.

Sources speculated that Nike will use the space to test a new retail concept. The company has a few things up its sweatshirt sleeve. Its first NikeGoddess women’s-only store opened at the Fashion Island in Newport Beach, Calif., in October. In February, Nike acquired Hurley, an action-sports lifestyle company. However, president Bob Hurley said: “We are not yet venturing into retail.” Nike also teamed up with Liz Lange, who designed a line of performance-oriented activewear for pregnant women in April. It could also be a totally new concept that Nike’s been mum about.

There has been plenty of interest in NoLIta lately.

“Downtown is very healthy and bouncing back after Sept. 11, especially NoLIta,” said Beth Greenwald, a broker at Newmark/New Spectrum. “Landlords have been more flexible with their rents and have been successful in attracting creative, entrepreneurial tenants.” She said that prices average between $55 and $60 a square foot.

Prohibit, which sells upscale casual men’s wear from Japan and fashion designed by DJ Charlotte Ronson, opened at 269 Elizabeth Street. And Cadeau, a fashionable maternity brand, is opening its first store, a 1,000-square-foot space at 254 Elizabeth Street, in August. Owners Emilia Fabricant and Chrissy Yu worked at Barneys New York — Fabricant as divisional merchandise manager for the Co-Op and Yu as women’s designer buyer.

“The modern styles, manufactured in Italy, are about allowing a woman to be herself throughout her pregnancy without having to give up her sense of style,” said Fabricant.”