Featured In : New York Times

Why SoHo Struggles and Indie Shops in Brooklyn Are Doing Fine 

With the exception of November 1929, there has probably been no moment less conducive to opening a jewelry store in New York than at any point during the past 11 months. So it was a hopeful and norm-defying sign, like a heat wave in a Finnish noir, to find Page Sargisson Jewelry arriving on the corner of Hoyt Street and Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn right after Thanksgiving.

Ms. Sargisson had been designing and making jewelry for 16 years, selling it wholesale and online. But she had long wanted to open a store, one that was big enough to accommodate a workshop. This past August, as the lease on her studio space was running out, she approached the owner of a building whose ground floor, like hundreds of other shop fronts around the city, had been empty for some time. She told him what she could pay. They came to an agreement. By the end of December, her sales had far exceeded her expectations...

...The lessons would seem obvious — that neighborhoods do best when they evolve organically in sync with the people who live in them. They cannot be manufactured as if real life were Minecraft. In the micro sense there are hopeful signs — landlords tying rents to percent of sales, banks slowly becoming more flexible in their financing. But the way we think about commerce and communities needs a radical re-evaluation.

“Retail has to be integrated into people’s lives,” Ms. Varian remarked. “Where are people walking their dogs? Where are they taking their kids to school?” Those businesses then need to be supported. And in the end, the vultures need to be kept away.

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