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Chic Jack’s closing highlights downtown Stamford retail turnover

January 4, 2019

STAMFORD — Retailers on Bedford Street operate on one of the busiest thoroughfares in the city. But the prime location does not guarantee success.

The planned shutdown of Chic Jack’s NYC Vintage Clothing’s store at 95 Bedford St., at the close of business Friday, highlights the ongoing turnover in the neighborhood. Many merchants grapple with overhead, with rent looming as a perennial challenge. Shifting customer tastes have also hurt some businesses. Still, the avenue continues to attract newcomers.

“Our expenses are just simply too high,” Chic Jack’s store manager Christine Fitzgerald said. “In order for the business to grow, we can’t stay here.”

Departures

Chic Jack’s opened on Bedford Street in late 2015, after a 40-year run operating several stores in Manhattan.

Fitzgerald declined to specify Chic Jack’s rent. She said the recurring costs took a toll, even though the rent has stayed the same. Monthly leases on the block can range between approximately $5,000 and $9,000, according to several tenants.

Chic Jack’s has not paid its rent since last summer, according to Gregory Lodato, president of the managing agency for the store’s landlord, Bedford East Holdings LLC. The firm owns several other buildings on the block.

“We have worked very diligently to help our product retailers, including accepting partial payments, to survive in a very difficult retail environment,” Lodato wrote in an email. “But when a business struggles to an extent that they are paying zero for an extended period of time, and there doesn’t appear to be any light at the end of the tunnel, it’s time to give up, for the betterment of all parties.”

In addition to its chicjacks.com website, Chic Jack’s will operate from a warehouse in Thornwood, N.Y. It plans to start taking customer appointments there by the middle of the year.

“We have an online business that we’ve been growing since we’ve been here,” Fitzgerald said. “So that is how we came up with our change in order to locate to more of a warehouse setting.”

In the past couple of years, the street has seen several other exits, including Mary’s Furs, Fleet Feet Sports and Aziza Couture.

“For the past two years, it hasn’t been that great,” Loukia Adamides, co-owner of Mary’s Furs, said last year. “This is a luxury item. Especially the younger generation now — they can’t afford it.”

Abiding interest

Despite the recent departures, Bedford Street remains attractive for many retailers. It also features one of the city’s top restaurant rows.

Stagecoach Olive Oil & Vinegar Co. debuted in December 2017, at 180 Bedford. Computer and mobile-device retailer and repairer Compco opened in September, at 59 Bedford, relocating and expanding from offices at 441 Summer St.

The new location has some drawbacks, such as limited parking. But the 1,800-square-foot storefront gives the firm more visibility, Compco owner Patrick Foti said.

“There are a lot of expenses that go along with opening the store, including rent,” Foti said. “You have to really plan it out and do it the right way. But the store is constantly marketing itself. It’s good to have a sign on the busiest street in downtown Stamford.”

At 109 Bedford, Thundersley Interiors’ store is set to open within the next week.

Across the street, at 168 Bedford, optician Chic Boutique Optical plans to open at the end of the month.

Meanwhile, Bedford East plans to replace Chic Jack’s with another retailer or “upmarket service business,” such as a hair salon.

“Filling the space with another restaurant or bar would be the easiest and quickest solution, which would guarantee a higher rent, which would be a lot easier to collect,” Lodato said. “However, we strongly believe that a diversity of uses is essential to Bedford Street’s long-term health. We have sacrificed in the past, and will continue to do so, in order to realize this vision.”

Additional clothing stores could also succeed on the street, said Jacqueline Wetenhall, vice president and director of retail development for the nonprofit Stamford Downtown, which focuses on economic and community development.

“We’re very bullish on the street,” Wetenhall said. “I’m really hoping we can bring in more great merchandisers this year.”

pschott@scni.com; 203-964-2236; twitter: @paulschott

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