- Under Cover
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BY JOHN BAYLES | Josh Rahmani did his homework before embarking on his latest business venture, a drugstore chain he hopes will one day find its way into every neighborhood in Manhattan.
Prime Essentials opened its flagship store on 88 Leonard St. two months ago, with little fanfare — a decision Rahmani said was intentional. One of his business partners wanted to do a soft opening, to ease into the neighborhood in order to gauge the how the neighborhood and its inhabitants received the idea.
That idea is to offer a “complete one-stop shopping experience,” and to cater specifically to the customers’ needs.
And Rahmani knows a little something about real estate investment. His “fulltime” job is with Venture Capital Properties. He said his experience there helped with the Prime Essentials venture because he “knows the markets.”
In the beginning, Rahmani and his business partner, Ebi Khalili, were considering more than ten different locations in Manhattan.
“We were looking at locations from Midtown to the Upper Eastside,” Rahmani said, “before settling on Tribeca.”
And before the two savvy businessmen chose their flagship spot, which happened to be a former Duane Reade, they did their research.
“We spent a lot of time just sitting across the street, counting people,” said Rahmani.
And beyond the demographic surveying, Rahmani put even more thought into the idea. One of the first things a customer will notice is the immense use of the color green throughout the store.
“You go to Long Island, and everything is green. The only thing green in the city is the parks,” said Khalili.
Rahmani said he had been a “fan” of Downtown, its future and the possibilities that come along with a burgeoning neighborhood, and that those factors very much played into their decision to make Tribeca the flagship store.
While some entrepreneurs might just play a “hands-off” role in a new venture, Rahmani was just the opposite. There were numerous days, he said, when he would cut a phone call short — a call that could’ve resulted in a giant real estate deal — leave his office Venture Capital and make his way to his new store.
“Perhaps I’d be in the middle of a $100 million real estate deal, and then I’d head to the store and work the register,” said Rahmani.
And working the register has been a vital part of Prime Essential’s success and business plan. It is there, when customers are checking out, that Rahmani or one of his employees asks customers what they liked about the store or what they didn’t. And the suggestions from customers are taken to heart. As a result of customer input, Prime Essentials has brought in more than 1,500 new products since opening. That, Rahmani said, is what separates them from the rest of the pack.
“We want to listen to the people,” Rahmani said. “So many businesses Downtown operate like monopolies.”
Prime Essentials, said Rahmani, pledges to be different.