“There’s been a significant migration from SoHo to Brooklyn. A lot of creative professionals now live in Brooklyn and that is really my customer base,” said Michele Varian of the shop at 400 Atlantic Avenue that bears her name. Her store sells pillows, lighting, baskets, wallpaper, furniture, tableware, jewelry, art, ceramics and gifts. “I design and manufacture a lot of the lighting, the pillows, wallpaper and some furniture.” Lighting is created downstairs in the shop, which employs a full-time fabricator for the lighting and a seamstress for the pillows.
“I really do believe successful retail is the kind of retail that’s integrated into people’s lifestyles,” Varian said. “We are part of the residential community which is totally how it used to be in SoHo. I live in SoHo. It’s become tourist-driven. We have been robbed of our streets during the day, but it’s a beautiful neighborhood when it’s not overrun with people.”
Varian moved her store from SoHo right before the pandemic, in January 2020. “I can not overstate how important that was. I had the shop in SoHo for 20 years. It was as though my landlord was my boss. I am paying 30 percent of what I was paying in SoHo. If I was still in SoHo I would be out of business.”
Asked what she thinks makes Atlantic Avenue distinctive, Varian said, “The historic storefronts are very striking but within those storefronts you’ve got the owners on site,” bringing their personal taste and preferences to the merchandising and decor. “It’s a more traditional retail experience that hearkens back to olden days,” said Varian. “You see people you know. You have conversations and relationships with the store staff. There are like-minded people and so many of my customers and many of the people on Atlantic Avenue are looking for things they can’t find somewhere else. It’s a discerning clientele craving things they haven’t seen online.”