Sid and I are opening a store on Madison and 74th one week from today. We have had a few short-term stints in New York during past holiday seasons where we’d rush in for a chaotic few weeks and then pack up and head home to Atlanta. This time we have committed to a long-term lease and we are so thrilled. It is still a whirlwind trying to sort it all out — we are starting with a very minimal buildout so that we can be open for the holidays, then plan to close for a few weeks early in 2023 to put the finishing touches on the space. An extra-soft opening.
I hope you will forgive me this bit of sentiment, but it is crazy how big this moment feels to me. If you are a parent, you know how it feels to watch your kids grow up… not noticing the changes until you see 4 inches of ankle on the same pants they were wearing just a little while ago. You feed them, they grow. That is sort of what this feels like. By this point, we know how to open stores — we have done it many times. We have been feeding our business for 15 years now. But I will tell you that when we both walked into our space on Madison a few weeks ago and it was just the two of us, alone in a half-built-out, 3000-square-foot room, I felt the most intense happiness and pride. Mostly for Sid.
This was all Sid’s idea. Always. I would have chosen dozens of career paths for myself before ‘retailer.’ I was a fashion editor – I loved doing things with clothes. I didn’t really want to sell them, and I definitely didn’t want to own them first. I went to business school where I learned all the scary words – INVENTORY! LIABILITY! Profit and LOSS! Not for me. But from the first time I met Sid, he told me he wanted to be a designer and not only make clothing, but open a store to sell it in. He had this old herringbone jacket that he had changed out the buttons on to these big fat brass ones emblazoned with wolves. “What do you think about the name Wolf Clothing?” I kept my first thoughts – “hmm… a wolf in sheep’s clothing?” — to myself. “Yeah, great idea, Sidney!” He went to work at J.Crew instead. It took a while, and there were many jobs and many children, but 20 years later, we both built this company. I might not have thought I wanted to be a retailer, but that is exactly what I am.
And now we are coming to 926 Madison Avenue. It is kind of crazy in there. The floor of the store looks like the bottom of a fish tank. It is some sort of pressed gravel-like composite with brilliant flecks of blue. Like the quirkiness and humor of Spongebob mixed with the chicness of Italian terrazzo. And although we have inherited it from the previous tenants, it is kind of perfect. It would have been just the thing Sid would have suggested to me. “Look at this; isn’t it cool?” I would have rolled my eyes and said NO way. Too weird. Then, I would have taken another look and said… Well. Maybe. And then, voilà, I would come around. Over the thirty-something years that Sid and I have been together, there are hundreds of examples of this. It goes from weird… to… well, maybe… to “oh man, I LOVE this.” I wish it was easier. The maybe part is often long and contentious and our worst sides come out. The age-old question of “why can’t you just think like me?” is at its most fierce. But what I try to remember is that we love each other because we don’t think like each other.
As if the floor wasn’t strange enough, the lights above are modern twinkly things that cost a fortune for the previous tenants to install. And when they left, they took their equally-expensive scrims for those lights, so what we have now is a very bright lights, big city kind of vibe. Scrim or not, they are not our typical look, and not what we would have chosen… but they are ours now! And they represent exactly what we love to do. Move in, lean in, and make it our own.
We will somehow fill the shop with our stuff and our staff and other things we love… and open the doors, ready or not. It won’t be perfect, but it will absolutely be amazing.
So many years ago, we met each other when we were deciding what to do with our lives. You pick someone. You fall in love. You go along, and then you look up and you have a shop on Madison Avenue with your name on it. Just like the 4 inches of bare leg on those pants the girls outgrew… it is kind of extraordinary.
And just so you know – I am getting the brilliant blue velvet slides to memorialize the brilliant blue chips in the chic fishtank floor. Weird and wonderful.I will see you in New York next week!