ATLANTA — A new store in Little Five Points, Atlanta’s alternative neighborhood, has the merchandise to fulfill Generation X’s wishes.
Wish, the actual name of this apparel and gift store, opened in early September in what was the Little Five Points library, a building constructed in 1941, according to the dedication plaque on the outside. The old red brick structure hints of its previous use, but the tall front window holds mannequins now, and over the doorway is a graffiti-style banner. Inside, pop art and merchandise hang from the 14-foot-high walls. Although the building may be from the past, co-owners Lewis Cerruzi and Bernard Arrojo emphasize the future. “We’re not particularly interested in dwelling on the past or even the present,” says Cerruzi.
Wish, which has 3,000 square feet of selling space, is smack in the middle of a collection of shops, bars and restaurants where Atlanta’s young people hang out. “We’re in one of the most exciting areas of the country as far as real estate and a vibrant street scene,” Cerruzi says. “It’s hard to get that kind of urban vitality outside of New York.”
Everything at Wish is geared toward Generation X customers, who range in age from 16 to 28, and they have responded well. Sales are “well ahead” of volume projections so far, says Cerruzi, who expects sales to exceed $1 million in 1995.
The area called First Wishes is upstairs, while downstairs is a room called Last Wishes, the bargain basement for apparel priced at $15 and under. Cerruzi and Arrojo also plan to put in a small record shop downstairs offering techno and ambient music, which is electronically produced.
Music is one of the small extras the two provide their customers, and it is central to this cutting-edge store. For example, disc jockeys are at Wish on Friday evenings, Saturdays and Sundays to play the music that Generation X customers want to hear.
When the doors open at noon and customers enter the store, they face the cash counter and a collection of housewares from the Sixties and Seventies with a Jetsons’ futuristic look. Cerruzi and Arrojo opened the store merchandising apparel by gender: a boys’ world and a girls’ world, with a small unisex area in between. Now apparel is merchandised according to type, for example all the sports apparel hangs together.
The apparel, about a third women’s, a third men’s and a third unisex, is sectioned off into three areas.
The Groovy Room offers vintage dresses, tops and bottoms, T-shirts and fun clothing; Funk Couture has a sizable selection of Betsey Johnson, and the Seattle Room has outerwear and other outdoorsy looks.
Apparel is merchandised on urban fixtures, which were made by a local artist, Edwin Creech, from chain link fences and metal. Creech helped generally with the overall design of the store, says Cerruzi. Cartoon-like cutouts were made by another local artist, Roger Smith, and several graffiti artists have contributed drawings.
Women’s wear lines include Jean Paul Gaultier, Zino & Judy, Esprit (items that department stores don’t carry, Cerruzi insists), American Rag, Tag Rag, New Breed, Patricia Field, Mondorama and Moschino. Cerruzi and Arrojo book about 25 percent of women’s wear lines at the Atlanta Apparel Mart.
The store also offers recycled Levi’s and, in a separate section, a large selection of Diesel Jeans & Workwear for men and women. Cerruzi says that Wish carries the largest inventory of Diesel in Atlanta. Diesel, he says, “has done an incredible job of capturing what this generation wants.”
Price points are in a moderate-to-better range. Cerruzi says he’s not trying to be rigid on pricing and shuns the notion held by nearby retailers that you must stay under a certain price point. “Customers will spend the money if they’re convinced that the quality is there,” he says.
Eventually, Cerruzi and Arrojo hope to advertise in much the same way Diesel and Benetton have — by being a proponent for change and awareness in social issues. “The word ‘wish’ is conducive to that type of advertising,” Cerruzi says. He and Arrojo dress like their customers — on this day, Cerruzi is in a Daniel Poole sweater and Adidas pants; Arrojo wears a 7-11 shirt by Salvage Clothing and hat by Kick Wear, all sold at Wish.
And it’s a market and a customer that Cerruzi loves. “This generation is almost a counterculture,” he says. “They’re rejecting the world they’ve inherited and realizing the problems we have on this planet. I feel a positive energy with this generation.”