NEW YORK —, a Web site that made its debut Tuesday, is trying to keep the entrepreneurial spirit alive by singling out independent specialty stores with a distinctive point of view.

For the launch, the focus is on New York City shops. The women’s section consists of 20 stores, including popular ones such as TG-170, Art Fiend Foundation, Lace and Opening Ceremony. None of the stores featured have more than two locations. In addition, there are plans to spotlight Berlin and Los Angeles.

“We look for stores with a very unique mission and ones that set themselves apart,” said one of Refinery29’s five co-owners, Philippe von Borries. “We want them to have an artisanal feel.”

Amarcord, La Reina, Peggy Pardon and the Summer Phoenix-backed Some Old Rubies are among the vintage stores highlighted on the site. Although duplication is essentially a nonissue for vintage stores, Refinery29 has selected downtown haunts with distinguishing aspects. Amarcord, for example, specializes in Italian pieces, and Peggy Pardon homes in on items from the Twenties and Thirties as well as the Edwardian era.

At Refinery29, visitors can search by store name or by category. The company plans to offer e-commerce within the year, and aims to be profitable by getting a percentage of those sales as well as drumming up advertising sales through sources that have similar mind-sets to the stores featured on the site.

Aside from providing contact information and giving the lowdown about what shoppers will find on the racks, Refinery29 warms them up with tidbits about stores such as In God We Trust, which has outdoor lawn chairs for passersby; Dane 115, run by former Destinations buyer Robin Fonseca and her daughter, and Mayle, which has coins in its floorboards for good luck.

On the Web site, there are also clickable boxes labeled Spotlight Women and Spotlight Men, which highlight individual items and where they can be bought. Street Seen is an interview with a random woman or man on the street that is reminiscent of New York magazine’s Look Book feature.

The editorial feel to the site is not by chance. Until last fall, von Borries was an editor at The Globalist, a Washington-based online magazine covering global economics, politics and culture. His co-owners include Christine Barberich, a former executive editor of City magazine; Jonathan Forgang, a contributing writer for Vibe, Mass Appeal and other publications, and Piera Gelardi, City’s photography director. The fifth co-owner, Justin Stefano, is a consultant at Goodman Couture and an investigator with the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board. The group members pooled their e-mail lists for Refinery29’s launch, which was eight months in the making. Now they have set their sights on the future.

This story first appeared in the June 17, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“We want to raise capital for further expansion,” von Borries said.

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