It’s a seriously challenging time to open a store, yet David Wu couldn’t resist the chance to bring his Côte À Coast concept and its clean, minimalist aesthetic to Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a small business to take center stage at Rockefeller Center among all the established big retail players that are here,” said Wu, just days before his store opened on Wednesday. “Tishman Speyer has been amazing to work with, and super supportive helping small businesses.”
The 545-square-foot shop, situated next to Mulberry and across from Tiffany in a section of Rockefeller Center known as the Channel Gardens, is Wu’s second Côte À Coast location. The first opened about five years ago in the NoHo section of Manhattan at 350 Bowery and is about twice the size of the Rockefeller Center shop. There is also a Côte À Coast web site.
“Côte À Coast is a fully fledged lifestyle brand offering clothing, home goods, furniture, accessories, health and wellness products, all within the same aesthetic. It’s a one-stop shop for earthy, chic luxury,” said Wu, the store’s owner.
Products start at $8 for a Binchotan charcoal toothbrush from Japan, to solid oak dining tables starting at $2,750. However, as Wu explained, “Our bread and butter is our clothing line. It’s been a huge, huge hit especially during the pandemic. All of our sweatshirts are hand-made locally. They are incredibly soft. We sell them year-round.” They’re priced at $208, $218 with a banded sleeve, and $228 with suede elbow patches. The T-shirts, handmade using Supima cotton, sell for $88. The sweatshirts and T-shirts are technically men’s but women have been buying them, too. Men’s shirtings, $248, are also popular, said Wu.
Wu, an investment banker out of college and former luxury and beauty analyst for the Telsey Advisory Group, came up with the idea of opening his own store when he was shopping to decorate his apartment. “Literally, there was nothing I connected with or that appealed to me. The stores I visited were either too modern, too flashy, too traditional or too quirky. I felt there was a void in earthy, refined, classic pieces that were clean, minimal and timeless.” He said he’s always had creative impulses, but it wasn’t until starting Côte À Coast that he was able to unleash them.
In the small Côte À Coast retail spaces, there’s a sense of discovery. “When customers come into the store, immediately they ask where is everything from. Is it from Morocco or Japan? We actually do have things from across six continents, but it’s super curated. It feels as if it all comes from one place.” He said he “really resonates” with products and artisans he finds in Los Angeles, Morocco and Colombia, but he also shops locally and upstate New York, with traveling long distances difficult now due to the pandemic. He’s less inclined to shop trade shows, and prefers sourcing elsewhere.
Wu said he’s been working with over 80 artisans and brands, some providing products exclusive to his stores. In some cases, he works with artisans to determine silhouettes and materials in the development of products. There’s an element of customization in the merchandise and hand craftsmanship, like wool cotton throws with giant tassels, custom made in Morocco, or the sculptural vases from a local artist that Wu worked with on the design.
Many of his customers shopping Côte À Coast downtown have moved out of the city, mostly to eastern Long Island, upstate New York, Connecticut and Miami, Wu said. “At least many are purchasing online. Our very loyal customer have really supported us through the shutdown with a lot of online orders. Home is having a huge moment. Everyone is looking to redecorate.”
On Wednesday, just before the new Côte À Coast store opened at 10 a.m., there are few shoppers and office workers outside in Midtown. Saks Fifth Avenue still had its windows boarded up, though most Fifth Avenue stores have removed the plywood from their windows, which was put up just before the presidential election last week, due to concerns about possible looting.
Still, the health crisis didn’t stop Wu from expanding his retail business. “It’s humbling to open in such an iconic place, among all the established big-box players,” said Wu.