The Saks Fifth Avenue flagship

Saks Fifth Avenue is bringing a taste of Paris to its Manhattan flagship.

This story first appeared in the October 7, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The famous L’Avenue brasserie, which draws celebrities, designers and international tourists as much for people watching as for the béarnaise, will open a restaurant inside the Saks flagship on Fifth Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets.

The addition of L’Avenue is an important element in Saks Fifth Avenue’s ambitious, three-year, $250 million overhaul, or “reinvention” as executives describe the project, underscoring the store’s intent on becoming a stronger destination and the symbiosis between shopping and dining. It’s widely believed that there’s room for department stores to bring better culinary experiences to the offering.

“Taking part in Saks’ reinvention was something we found both compelling and inspiring,” said L’Avenue founder and hotelier Jean-Louis Costes. “We believe our L’Avenue restaurant on Avenue Montaigne is an ideal counterpart for the redevelopment of their 1924 landmark flagship as well as for their vision in rethinking the Saks client journey.”

“Today, as we reimagine and redevelop our renowned New York City flagship, we are returning to our heritage of giving our customer unparalleled experiences that place Saks at the intersection of fashion and culture,” said Saks Fifth Avenue president Marc Metrick.

Asked if it would be difficult to get a table at L’Avenue, Metrick replied, “We’re betting on it. It’s our responsibility to give the customer a very, very good reason to come to the store. This type of collaboration gives you an opportunity to attract a new customer discovering Saks for the first time and for those already shopping Saks, to provide a more meaningful experience.”

L’Avenue, considered a Paris hot spot, is situated on a bustling corner of Paris, on Avenue Montaigne, opposite Christian Dior and in proximity of some of the city’s finest stores. It has outdoor seating, a lounge and a seductive decor of red velvet and chandeliers. Saks officials want to capture the flair of L’Avenue in Paris, and make it as chic in New York.

“Bringing Parisian legend L’Avenue to our flagship furthers our mission to make Saks the hero,” said Metrick.

The flagship project, which began earlier this year, is anticipated to be complete by mid-2018. Among the most dramatic changes that will be seen in the seasons ahead, the beauty floor is moving from the ground level up to two; the main floor will convert to handbags and accessories; fine jewelry is moving down to a new concourse level, and a world of eveningwear and evening accessories will be created on nine.

L’Avenue is expected to begin operating at Saks in 2018, though Metrick said a firm date has not been established. The menu is also to be determined. Lunch and dinner will be served, and dinner will be served past store hours. Metrick did not exclude the possibility of opening additional L’Avenue restaurants at other Saks locations, which would depend on the success of the first one.

L’Avenue will be on the ninth floor of the Saks flagship, with views of Rockefeller Center and access from the eighth floor via a spiral staircase situated next to a Champagne bar, also with views overlooking Fifth Avenue including St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

The Saks restaurant on eight, called Cafe SFA, will close, enabling an expansion of 10022-Shoe with shop concepts along the perimeter.

Though L’Avenue will be on Saks’ premises, it’s hands-off as far as Saks is concerned. “L’Avenue is going to operate with their standards, their kitchen,” Metrick said. “The food will be spectacular.”

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