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Why Retailers Use Williamsburg as a Concept Testing Ground

The Space Ninety 8 marketplace, featuring local designers; Photo by <a href="http://drielys.com">Driely S.</a> for Racked
The Space Ninety 8 marketplace, featuring local designers; Photo by Driely S. for Racked

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Williamsburg is "special"—or was, depending on whom you ask. The artists and innovators who've inhabited the Brooklyn neighborhood have long put their own twists on the expected, and that's what major national and international retailers are trying to replicate here—with everything from the behemoth Space Ninety 8 to the forthcoming J. Crew—and perhaps duplicate elsewhere, according to Crain's New York.

"People are looking for something different in Williamsburg, and it's a great chance for a lot of stores to try out new concepts," Peter Levitan, the senior managing director of real estate firm Lee & Associates, told the paper. "It's such a popular destination, and it will only continue to be a destination if it has unique concepts."

A continuous thread of the "unique concepts" that brands have played with is staying local, like the marketplace in Space Ninety 8, Brooklyn Candle Studio goods at the Diesel pop-up shop, and installations from Brooklyn artists at J. Crew.

"With Williamsburg especially, we give [customers] a new home to hang out in, and a real sense of community," David Arbuthnot, the CEO of Gant's USA operations, told the paper (the Gant Rugger store that opened last year features a food area with local goods from Kings County Distillery and the Brooklyn Salsa Company). "The store is so much more than shopping."

Crain's claims there is a thought process behind who landlords are letting in. "There's a very conscious effort on the part of landlords to not let this become a basic shopping mall," said Geoff Bailey, a broker at SCG Retail. "To reach the market's true potential, they have to keep it edgy and interesting."

So far, brands that they believe fit that criteria include sister brands Sandro and Maje (which opened in October 2013 and May of this year, respectively), and Starbucks that could serve beer and wine. And forthcoming stores include Madewell, a long-awaited Whole Foods, Lululemon, and a heavily-rumored Apple.

There's no mention, however, of local stores that have come up as of late, like Brooklyn Running Co., and how they're contributing to the community.
· Williamsburg a Secret Lab for Retailers [Crain's]
· Local Stores Respond to Being Kicked Out of Williamsburg [Racked NY]
· Retail Sales and Square Foot Values Soaring in Williamsburg [Racked NY]

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