T&B, which will donate 100 percent of profits to various charities impacting children, is owned by Nordstrom, but you'd never know it. There's no exterior signage identifying Nordstrom as T&B's parent.
Whereas Nordstrom is polished, T&B is raw. While you can go to Nordstrom with a sense of purpose, fairly certain in the conviction that you'll find the perfect pumps or cropped jacket, at T&B, the emphasis is on the word "treasure," as in treasure hunt, as in you never know what you'll find.
Why, it's even more of a crapshoot than Nordstrom Rack, the off-price chain that sells leftover inventory from full-price stores at a discount, plus the proverbial "special-value items purchased just for Nordstrom Rack," or filler items that are like what sawdust is to frankfurters. Even if a brand is successful at T&B, it may not necessarily be reordered, to give shoppers an opportunity to discover new brands. (Right now, the store has 150 of them.) In fact, it may not be a bad idea to keep the Nordstrom name off T&B. Why risk a solid reputation for a work in progress? "Treasure & Bond will end up finding its own identity," said Pete Nordstrom, executive vice president and president of merchandising, when he visited the store last week. Nordstrom gets to play edgy New York retailer and consumers are none the wiser.
Nordstrom fell hard for T&B's location on a quiet, tree-lined section of West Broadway near Grand Street. (The story goes that Nordstrom liked the location so much, it signed the lease before knowing what concept would open there.) T&B occupies the first and second floors of a Moed de Armas & Shannon-designed luxury apartment building that has "a glass and champagne aluminum unitized curtainwall system with highly articulated vertical mullions balanced with strong horizontal elements," according to its Web site. Art by George Condo, Michele Oka Doner and Pete Lane is showcased in the lobby. A penthouse for sale in the building is listed at $26 million.
T&B has none of the marble floors, plush carpeting, fabric-paneled walls and abstract art of the full-line stones. Concrete floors, open duct work and reclaimed furniture and fixtures from Nordstrom full-line stores give T&B an intentionally unfinished look -- like Housing Works without the clutter. Perhaps Nordstrom is hoping to give philanthropist Catie Marron, who had the idea for T&B, Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour, who acted as a liaison between Marron and Nordstrom, and their friends, a cheap thrill with the bazaar-like booty and odd curios.
Merchandise is a mix of home, men's, woman's and kids apparel, fragrance, accessories, jewelry and art, priced from $15 for a plastic ring to $5,000 for fine jewelry. With up-and-coming labels such as 2b. Rych, Yoon, German FrÃ¿uleins, Herno and Hoss Intropia, Nordstrom hopes to find new vendors or classifications and categories it hadn't thought of before. "It's nice for us to have a vehicle where we can do pure merchant stuff without the entanglements of a big company," he said. "We're going to end up having a full-line store in Manhattan. Anything we can do to make us better and more informed is important." Nordstrom has been looking for a site for a full-line store here for two decades, long enough for some real estate experts to believe the company would have found something by now if it were serious.
Nordstrom didn't want to compromise. Now, he's seen that "a lot of people have found success over time and made compromises. We're closer than what we've been. We've got some things we're considering. It all is somewhat complicated. It's dependent on the owner and the landlord and there are other factors to consider. We've come close on a couple things, but then the decisions were out of our hands."
Nordstrom may have been referring to the site of the former Drake Hotel on Park Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets. A nonbinding letter of intent was signed, but Nordstrom rescinded it in 2008. Nordstrom could still be examining that spot. One big issue was whether the store would have a 57th Street entrance.
Nordstrom, no doubt, is experiencing sticker shock. Rents in Manhattan are among the highest in the U.S., if not the world, and Nordstrom is used to getting rent subsidies from shopping centers that see it as a traffic generator. Nordstrom's requirements have always been a tall order to fill. A full-line store calls for 180,000 to 200,000 square feet in a neighborhood with upscale shoppers. Large floor plates don't grow on city trees in densley-populated Manhattan.
"A full-price store has always been a bit of a challenge," said one retail broker. "It's tough to find an appropriate location that's going to be situated in a way that it fits Nordstrom's image as well as physically configured so they can sell in a footprint that's going to make sense and be affordable."
"Department stores have such unique requirements when it comes to loading and vertical transportation for freight and passengers," said Jeffrey Roseman, executive vice president and principal of Newmark Knight Frankel. "It's hard for them to lay out a 50,000-square foot-floor plate. New York City is challenging. Every retailer that comes here has to live with the challenges. As difficult as it was, J.C. Penney is happy that it opened here."
Roseman said the smart money is on Hudson Yards, which Related Corp. is developing with Oxford Properties Group on the far West Side. "Hudson Yards will have 600,000 to 1 million square feet of retail space," he said. "My guess is they're going to pull Nordstrom out there. Nordstrom wants ground-up construction. The subway will be up and running by 2013 and there will be thousands and thousands of residential units." A Nordstrom flagship at Hudson Yards would create a phenomenon where, "Truly if you build it, they [shoppers] will come."