TIFFANY’S TO REFURBISH FLAGSHIP

Byline: Wendy Hessen

NEW YORK — Tiffany’s famed flagship is about to undergo its most extensive renovation in the store’s 60-year history.
But unlike some of its neighbors, shoppers shouldn’t expect edgy concrete flooring, cold steel fixtures and a hip hop soundtrack. Rather, the mission is to respect the monumentality of the space while imparting a sense that everything has been freshened up, all the while gaining about 25 percent in selling space to nearly 41,000 square feet.
“It’s like a good facelift — no one should know what happened, just that it all looks better,” said Glenn Pushelberg, managing partner of the Canadian architectural firm Yabu Pushelberg, which is partnering with Tiffany’s own architects and designers on the project, slated to be done in stages and completed by the summer of 2004.
“It is rare that the physicality of a space so strongly defines a brand as much as this building does,” said Michael J. Kowalski, Tiffany’s president and chief executive officer.
“This building has such a legacy,” added Beth Canavan, executive vice president of U.S. retail sales, who oversees the flagship operations. “We really felt we needed to protect the integrity and prominence of what has become an American institution. Our customers like that it hasn’t changed that much since it opened, and it has aged incredibly well.”
Designed by Cross & Cross, the 124,000-square-foot landmark, with its familiar limestone facade and nine-foot figure of Charles Atlas, opened its doors in October 1940. The $10 million deal represented one of the largest real estate transactions of the day, and was the fifth in a series of migrations uptown, as Tiffany moved with the carriage trade toward grander surroundings.
From its original humble beginnings at 259 Broadway, the company had resided at two other Broadway addresses until 1853, when it moved to Union Square and 15th Street until 1870. Through 1905, Tiffany operated out of a large building at Fifth Avenue and 37th Street before decamping to its current, ground-zero location for luxury shopping at 727 Fifth Avenue.
The store will remain open during the entire renovation period, with the former executive offices on the fifth floor acting as temporary housing for each department as work progresses. As reported, the executive offices were relocated to 600 Madison Avenue late last year.
Probably the most extensive element of the construction — and the first to be undertaken — will be the dedication of the entire second floor to engagement and bridal jewelry, and important jewels. Seeking to provide a quieter, more private setting from the busy main floor, the second floor will include multiple seating areas and several private salons for more personalized service.
Many of the esthetic attributes of the main floor — natural light from the 13-foot-high windows, and similar columns, wood, carpeting, ceiling treatments and cases — will be echoed on the second floor, which is scheduled to be completed by October.
The departure of such a considerable amount of jewelry to the second floor will allow for a planned major expansion of Tiffany watches, Kowalski noted. By August 2002, the sixth floor, devoted to customer service, is set to be completed, followed shortly thereafter by the unveiling of the fourth floor, which will feature a range of Tiffany china, crystal and sterling silver gifts, hollowware and flatware. That area will also include the bridal registry and a workshop area that will allow brides and grooms to arrange their product choices in an actual table-setting atmosphere.
The third floor, for sterling silver jewelry, silver gifts and accessories, baby gifts and stationery, will be completed by spring 2003. The fifth floor, a gallery and entertaining space, should be done by June 2003.
The main floor will get its sprucing up with new showcases, an improved layout, and similar lighting and design scheme to the second floor, and should be finished by late August 2003.
The mezzanine area, to house the Jean Schlumberger salon and the personal shopping operation, will be last in the plan and completed in June 2004.