A Grand Experiment
Did You Know?|The Holiday Fair
- In February this year, the Grand Central Station celebrated its 100-year anniversary
- Each day, 700,000 people pass through the terminal
- Metro North operates 700 trains a day
- Typically runs from mid-November through December 26
- Juried collection of vendors selling top-quality items. Must submit applications before mid-June to be considered
- More than 1 million people pass through the station each day of the holiday season
Jones Lang LaSalle assistant manager Laura Blaustein oversees retail operations at Grand Central Station’s Graybar Passage. She took Specialty Retail Report on a tour of retail kiosks in the busy commuter saturated corridor. Located on the northeastern section of the 100-year-old train station, the path tunnels from the main terminal over to Lexington Ave. Blaustein calls this section of the terminal’s retail stock an incubator for local small, independent businesses. Merchants rotate at the kiosks, usually for three or four-month intervals. Blaustein said the Grand Central retail realtors can use their expertise to help nurture the merchants for the time they are here. “A lot of these merchants would like to stay here for longer periods, but, we like to mix it up for the commuting customers,” she said. The kiosks have been operating in the corridor for seven years now. Each of the merchants offers a sampling of distinctly New York crafts, colors and flavors.
“A lot of these New York-based artisan merchants, can’t afford to invest the capital it takes for a regular brick-and-mortar store location,” said Blaustein. They can instead “make this sort of temporary investment in a kiosk, and test their market, and along the way, get tremendous exposure.”
Christina Stankard Jewelry is run by Scott Aldrich and his wife Christina Stankard. Stankard has been designing her jewelry for 15 years and makes her bracelets, necklaces, rings, all by hand in Brooklyn, using ethically sourced genuine precious and semiprecious stones as well as fresh-water pearls. The products have price points from very reasonable to much higher end for the more elaborate pieces. It’s the second year at Grand Central for Stankard who also does the holiday market at Grand Central.
Corrente sells leather handbags, clutches and accessories. Corie Humble runs the business with a partner and a staff of three producing the products in Manhattan. All products in the supply chain, down to the zippers, come from local suppliers. This is Corrente’s first year renting a kiosk at the Graybar Passage.
Jewelry kiosk, Innasense, has kept a presence at the Grand Central holiday market over the past three Christmas seasons and decided to try the Graybar Passage for a one-month trial run around Valentine’s Day. That move was a hit and the kiosk is expected to be at the passage for three months. New York-based Inna Zelikson sells the jewelry she makes with her sister. The merchant’s price points range from $95 up to as high as $3,000 and $4,000. In fact, Zelikson said that her best sellers are the more expensive items.
To that point, Blaustein said the price points at the Graybar Passage kiosks run counter to commonly held assumptions regarding price points for kiosks in a typical American mall. “If you said to someone, ‘Oh, I bought this necklace at a kiosk,’ no one would think that it was purchased at such a high price point,” said Blaustein holding up one of Zelikson’s creations. She said the Graybar customer “gets the quality” and none of the merchandise being sold in the passage is price-point driven.
Insiders1 sells handmade designer leather handbags, gloves and accessories decorated with urban photography prints, all shot by owner Sigal DeMayo. The Brooklyn-based company is run by De Mayo and her husband Fabio Otavora. All the products are made at the company’s office at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Insiders1 has around eight employees, including Jake Glesge who said he does a lot of the printing of DeMayo’s photography onto the handbags. He said the products hold a lot of appeal for both locals and tourists since the art captures the real flavor of New York City.
At From Brooklyn with Love, proprietress Dara Furlow sells what she calls the best of Brooklyn-based artisan food products. Some of her biggest sellers include Kings County Beef Jerky, made with grass-fed beef from upstate New York. Then, there are the ginger and chocolate moustache cookies, which were inspired in great part by the moustache craze in hipster haven Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The kiosk, which is at the passage for three months, also sells s’mores, candies and a plethora of other locally produced products. “We started strictly as an online merchant, and then our business started to grow,” said Furlow.
Sitting at the entrance of the passage on the Lexington Avenue side, TieCoon sells men’s accessories and is run by Biana Todorovic. Prices at her kiosk range from $36 up to $600 for items such as cufflinks. She also sells a number of collegiate-themed pins and other accessories representing schools from Alabama to Washington. She said these appeal to the thousands of alumni who’ve since transplanted to New York City.
Blaustein said rent for a kiosk at Grand Central’s Graybar Passage can range anywhere from $2,500 for the local merchants, up to $25,000 per month for corporate merchants.
But, clearly the local incubator kiosks are what most excites Blaustein. “This whole effort in Graybar is very, very exciting, both for us and the merchants,” she said.