NEW YORK — Many of Manhattan’s luxury retailers lost a day’s business Thursday after a steam pipe burst in Midtown, sending a huge steam cloud into the sky. Several streets were closed to traffic and dozens of stores were forced to shut.

This story first appeared in the March 14, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“Whether stores stayed open or closed is irrelevant. There’s been no pedestrian traffic from 50th to 54th Streets since 10:30 a.m., said Tom Cusick, president of the Fifth Avenue Association. “Clearly, it’s a mess. In that four-block stretch, I would say there’s a minimum of 20 stores.”

Among the stores that did close was Salvatore Ferragamo, at 661 Fifth Avenue by 52nd Street. “There are tons of uniforms outside — policemen, firemen —and we were told not to drink the water,” said a spokeswoman at Ferragamo. City officials feared the burst steam pipe could lead to contamination. Con Edison workers were testing the pipes for asbestos lining and any other dangerous material.

A Cartier spokeswoman said the company’s headquarters and flagship at Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street were evacuated, and executives spent the day working from the Olympic Towers office of Richemont North America, whose parent, Compagnie Financière Richemont AG, owns Cartier. Some of the sales staff at the flagship decided to spend the day working at the Cartier boutique on Madison Avenue, about a half-mile north of the main store.

Other stores in the vicinity that were directly affected are Banana Republic, Gap, A|X Armani Exchange, Brooks Bros. and the NBA store. Saks Fifth Avenue stayed open, but with all the disruption, business was hindered.

The steam pipe that burst was in a building by 52nd Street and Madison Avenue. Fifth Avenue was closed to traffic from 51st to 57th Streets, and 51st, 52nd and 53rd Streets were closed between Broadway and Madison Avenue, causing gridlock.

Subways were still running, though, no injuries were reported and electricity was not affected.

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