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How Dagny & Barstow, Planned for the Bowery, Wound Up in the Meatpacking District

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We've asked Emily Titelman and Meredith Blank to tell us exactly what it's like to transform a onetime Bowery bar into Dagny & Barstow, their forthcoming high-end women's store. Welcome to Opening Diary, an account of their adventures in retail.

Hello readers! Remember us? We're Dagny + Barstow, the women's boutique that was supposed to open this summer at 264 Bowery. Well, that didn't happen. But a whole lot of other stuff did.

As you know, we were planning on setting up shop in what used to be Lenny Kravitz's nightclub. But our store opening experience turned out to be one long lesson in Murphy's Law: Anything that can go wrong probably will.

We'll start with the good news: Dagny + Barstow is open for business in a pop-up location at 64 Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District. Getting here, however, was a whole different story. 264 Bowery, our dream space and prospective home since February, turned out to involve a long set of complications. We might have won over the Community Board, but by June, we realized that we weren't going to be able to get our construction permits any time soon. With an opening day fast approaching, we had to make the difficult decision to move on.

We spent two weeks running around like madwomen, seeing every available space in lower Manhattan. It seemed bizarre to go all the way back to the beginning of the process and start over again, taking photos, pouring over floor plans, researching the neighborhood, counting foot traffic. In the end we got lucky with a temporary space on Gansevoort Street. And we didn't have to lose out on our bar, our chandelier, our exposed brick wall, or any of the other things that drew us to 264 Bowery in the first place. We just had to learn to be patient, as we will be moving back to our original home in the spring.

By the time we got the lease, we were exactly 48 hours away from Fashion's Night Out, a very important night for a new clothing boutique in New York. We tagged and steamed the night away, and with just a few hours left, we miraculously managed to get everything in and merchandised. For once, we thought we'd caught a break. But then the AC broke. And then sewage leaked in our basement. If you came to our store opening on Fashion's Night Out, we hope you have recovered from your bout of heat exhaustion.

But we're also thrilled that you made it. Because despite the heat, people still turned out! And it was wonderful. Between the delays in getting our permits, the earthquake, the hurricane, and our AC breaking, sometimes it seems like the universe was conspiring against us. Then we look around and appreciate the fact that we finally have a store. We did it!

What we've realized is that this happens to everyone. Everyone gets delayed, everyone has issues getting permits from the DOB to do construction—it only feels like the world is ending because this store is your entire world, your life's savings, your reputation on the line. So for anyone else deciding to embark upon an adventure in retail, we've put together a disaster list to help you be prepared. This column started with a top ten list, and it's going to end with one!

1.) Hire good lawyers. This is NOT the area to pinch pennies. You never know when you'll need legal help.

2.) Be good to your family. They'll be driving to Bed Bath & Beyond several times in the last few days before the launch.

3.) Never underestimate the time it takes to decipher Ikea instructions. Serenity now. Insanity later.

4.) Whatever you think your budget is, add $10,000. If you think you've thought of everything, you haven't. For us, those extra charges included planters for outside the store, candles (DO YOU KNOW HOW EXPENSIVE NICE CANDLES ARE!?), flowers, a store phone, filing cabinets, a mini-fridge, construction clean up, and weekly garbage removal. It all sound so minor, but boy does it add up.

5.) Whatever quantity of booze you think you need for Fashion's Night Out, buy more.

6.) Have a healthy respect for government agencies like Landmarks and the Loft Board. They can and will make you wait.

7.) Every day that you plan to move fixtures or merchandise it will rain.

8.) If you try to rent a U-Haul, it will inevitably be the same week as college move-in and you will be forced to rent the largest truck you have ever seen. Emily could now legitimately audition for Ice Road Truckers.

9.) If you bring your dogs to the store, they will pee on the floor while a customer is trying to buy a fur.

10.) Call Verizon the day you decide to open a store, and perhaps nine months later you will have on-time installation for your store opening.

But we made it, and we're better for everything we had to go through. 64 Gansevoort Street isn't our final home, but we've made it as close to perfect as we could under the circumstances. And we'll keep getting better. This store is our baby, and it might be going through its awkward phase, but one day it'll grow up and be something wonderful. Thanks for coming along for the ride.—Emily Titelman and Meredith Blank
· All Opening Diary archives [Racked NY]
· Ten Gross Things About Turning Lenny Kravitz's Bar into a Boutique [Racked NY]