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Faith Hope Consolo
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New York, NY 10022
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In the News

Plaza's Retail Chief Aims for Spirit of Harrod's

When patrons stroll into the grand entrance of the newly renovated Plaza Hotel in February, they will likely be greeted by the smells of pastries from a Viennese bakery that dates back to the life and times of Mozart.

The famed bakery, the Imperial & Royal Court Confectioner Ch. Demel's Sons, is days away from signing a lease to run a coffee bar with pastries in the Grand Concourse of the new retail space at the Plaza, according to a source with knowledge of the deal.

Demel is only the latest high-end retailer to become associated with the Plaza retail collection which, at 160,000 square feet, will take up the majority of three floors. About 65% of the space is leased to tenants that include an Australian photo gallery, Peter Lik Fine Arts; a French spa, Caudalie; a purveyor of coffee table books, Assouline, and a hair salon, Warren Tricomi. A slew of fashion labels, including Seize sur Vingt, Jay Strongwater, Rachel Roy, and Don Eduardo et Donna Rosalia, have also signed on to sell clothing in the open shopping area on the Grand Concourse. There are a dozen more retailers close to signing deals, although the signature Edwardian Room and the Terrace Room are not yet leased.

"This is going to be the best Plaza New York ever had," the general manager of retail for the Plaza Collection, Anthony Nicola, said. Even while the tenants are signing leases at the building, critics are complaining that all of the retail will create an assortment of indoor shops that will feel more like a suburban mall than a collection of high-end shops. Mr. Nicola defended the space, noting that each retailer will adhere to strict rules about lighting, color schemes, and signage to prevent any similarities with a shopping center.

In fact, Mr. Nicola said the retail space would be set up much in the spirit of Selfridges and Harrods in London.

"The latest lineup of shops at the Plaza is a very interesting, eclectic mix of fashion, beauty, culture, and food similar to the ‘hypermarket' concepts found all over Europe," the chairman of the retail arm of brokerage Prudential Douglas Elliman, Faith Hope Consolo, said. "A shopping trip to the Plaza will be like a tour around the world, only on Fifth Avenue."

Mr. Nicola took the job at the Plaza eight months ago, after serving for eight years as the vice president of operations at Bergdorf Goodman. Before that, he spent 17 years at Macy's.

"I was intrigued with the Plaza project from the beginning," he said. "So I took the opportunity when it arose. It's the crossroads of luxury."

The challenge, Mr. Nicola said, was to distinguish the space from that of Fifth Avenue, which already contains the most well-known names in fashion. Some major retailers, such as Mont Blanc, have secured space at the Plaza, but the majority of the retailers are not household names like Louis Vuitton or Coach.

The Plaza retail space will remain open later than most of the stores on Fifth Avenue, which close between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. It will also include a messenger service that can ferry goods anywhere in the city, a "super high-end" electronics installation service, and a shoe spa to repair broken stilettos and worn leather, Mr. Nicola said. There will be three ways to enter the retail area. The main entrance will be on Fifth Avenue, where the building's façade faces Grand Army Plaza. Shoppers will also be able to enter from 58th Street through the hotel entrance. The lobby will also host a Champagne bar and escalators will take people to the main shopping area. From 59th Street, shoppers will have immediate access to the Edwardian room and another set of escalators to the Grand Concourse.

A gym, Radu Physical Culture, will take up about 8,000 square feet of the subcellar and there will be a spa, Caudalie, and a beauty salon, Warren Tricomi, on the mezzanine and second floor.

The majority of the 60,000-square-foot Grand Concourse will be open shopping, except for a few sectioned-off stores. The Demel bakery, which will offer pastries and espresso drinks, will sit on the southern end near a florist and an antiques section.

Pointing at bare walls covered with metal infrastructure and wiring for the building, Mr. Nicola said the area "would be full of color and smells."

On the other side of the space will be a 5,000-square-foot food court with a specialty sandwich area, sushi bar, and possibly a pizza oven, Mr. Nicola said.

As the Plaza brand is spread around the world by the Israeli developer Elad Group, Mr. Nicola said he would be involved in crafting a wider retail strategy. The company is set to open a new hotel in Las Vegas and a mixed-use building bearing the Plaza name in Singapore.

A new Plaza Store will also be available in the new retail space near the 58th Street side. There are plans for Plaza-branded crystal, jewelry, and the famous robes and slippers that until now were only available to guests. Rooms at the new hotel will start at $775 a night.

 

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