Mainstream Retail Comes to Atlantic Avenue

07/21/2010 4:00 AM |

A constant state of turnover is more or less status quo for the city’s retail scene, but the trials of the recession really seem to have brought certain indie boutique-heavy areas (the Lower East Side and Nolita in Manhattan, for example) to their knees. In some cases, the result has been blocks packed with empty storefronts, but in others, a few key new entries into a neighborhood is paving the way for mainstream retail to gain a serious foothold.

Such appears to be the case on Atlantic Avenue, where news that Manhattan’s prince of luxury retail, Barneys, announced plans to open a Co-op outpost near Trader Joe’s this fall set off quite a shopping-focused fever.

Suddenly,The New York Times was reporting that a number of other “high-end retailersâ€� had been scouting in the area, including Swarovski Crystal and Anthropologie. There may already be an Urban Outfitters in the ‘hood, but it’s clear that it took the buy-in of a national luxury brand to open the floodgates to that level of big-name branding. The main question, of course, is as the shopping potential for the area ramps up, will some of the more beloved indie shops (or restaurants, for that matter) be able to hold on?

A tough 2009 has certainly brought more than a few storefronts on the market for big retail to choose from. Just this month, designer Jodi Arnold confirmed that she’d be taking over an old restaurant space at 347 Atlantic, bringing her signature ladylike dresses to the block. Arnold’s actually a Brooklyn resident, so the move makes sense, but the fact that designer’s first brick-and-mortar store is on University Place in Manhattan should give anyone a good idea of the brand’s identity. Arnold may not be a household name, per se, but in terms of fashion, she’s not exactly known for being on the fringes, either. Stylish, but not avant-garde. Bottom line, it’s worth noting that the talent the thoroughfare is now attracting isn’t undiscovered, forward-thinking designers—it’s savvy folk who’ve likely already engaged in a collaboration with, say, the Limited (as Arnold has).

It’s hard to complain about a successful retail boost in a pulsing nerve center of Brooklyn, but no doubt the local indies are about to feel the heat of an ever more developed playpen. Smith Street may be home to editor-favorite stores like Bird, Epaulet, and Dear Fieldbinder, but some of the neighborhood’s strongest indie shopping destinations are currently clustered along Atlantic, from Hollander & Lexer to Butter by Eva Gentry and Mafalda vintage. Here’s hoping the latest influx along the route only serves to strengthen them all.