Volume 18 • Issue 31 | December 16 - 22, 2005

Downtown Express photo by Lorenzo Ciniglio

Sophia Lundberg, a Tribeca resident, shopping in Babylicious. Smaller shops in Tribeca are reporting good sales this season but some Financial District stores say business is down this year.

Shops say holiday sales up in Tribeca, down near the Battery

By Caitlin Eichelberger

The inundation of retail chains throughout Manhattan give Downtown’s smaller specialty stores a run for their money, especially during the holiday season. Ten days before Christmas, some Downtown shops are keeping pace, while others are lagging behind. Children’s toy stores in Tribeca appear to be making headway, but jewelers Downtown with longstanding businesses are awaiting a crowd.

Holiday business at Babylicious, located at 51 Hudson St., started slow, said co-owner Carol Faber Adams, but it is picking up. The 2005 holiday season is the store’s first full season. Faber-Adams and partner Barbara Tomasulo purchased Happy Baby Toys, the former store at the location that specialized in the infant and toddler markets, last December. Since the transition, the owners have tripled the inventory by expanding store merchandise to the five and under crowd.

“We’re both ex-finance people, live in the neighborhood, have young children, wanted to be around more and so decided to leave the finance world,” said Faber-Adams, explaining the career change. Though former finance folks, neither owner has prior retail experience. With Hannukah pushed back to the last week in December this year, she said the holiday rush is probably going to be later.

Faber-Adams said they have an edge over corporate retailers. “We carry almost nothing that you would find at Babies R Us or Toys R Us,” she said. “We try to carry the things that are not mass market, a little bit different, a little bit eccentric.”

At Boomerang Toys, located at 173 W. Broadway, holiday business has gotten better each year since its opening in 2002, said owner Karen Barwick. She said 2005 appears headed on the same track. Barwick, a Battery Park City resident, opened the toy store, which targets children up to 12 years old, in November 2002 after she was laid-off earlier in the year. She said she knew nothing of toys other than what she bought for her children. To start, Barwick began contacting manufacturers of toys in her own children’s toy box. Three years later Barwick is still handpicking her inventory. “We try to carry toys that we feel are high quality maybe not necessarily expensive, but toys that we feel have value to them. And every single toy is picked by me.”

Boomerang Toys does carry a variety of mass market goods in addition to unique pieces. Barwick said customers are willing to pay a slightly higher price for the customer service and to avoid Times Square.

When Boomerang Toys opened in 2002, few children’s stores existed in Tribeca. Now there are at least five within walking distance of each other. The stores, however, appear to be careful not to overlap, each specializing in different age markets and merchandize. With two children under four years of age, Faber-Adams said she often frequents the other neighborhood shops. “I think the toy stores in the neighborhood have a really nice sort of respect for each other, which is nice because it doesn’t make sense for us all to sell the same thing.”

Further Downtown in the Financial District, jewelry stores, another typical stop for Christmas shoppers, aren’t doing as well. Business at Greenwich Jewelers, Inc., a fine jewelry store located at 64 Trinity Pl., is worse this year compared to last, according to owner Carl Gandia.

“We lost a lot of people in the area due to attrition it seems like and I guess just pure economics,” he said. “Sales generally pick up during the holidays, but it is starting a little late this year.” Long established customers still frequent the store, he said, but walk-ins are few and far between. The 29-year-old  jewelry store relocated to Trinity Pl. four years ago after 25 consecutive years at 118 Greenwich St. The decline, however, is in comparison to last year’s holiday business. “But we’re very upbeat about the whole thing,” he said. “[I’ve] been in business for 29 years, so I’ve seen good times and bad. This isn’t going to be any different.”

Like Greenwich Jewelers Inc., William Barthman Jewelers, the century old fine jeweler at its original location at 174 Broadway, has seen sluggish sales. “It really hasn’t kicked into real selling mode,” said manager Joel Kopel. He wasn’t sure why considering Wall Street bonuses were rumored to be large this year, he said. To achieve the same level of sales as last year, Kopel said the next two weeks are crucial. “At the end of the holiday season we’ll see how it plays out . . . [We’re] still hopeful that it’ll pick up,” he said.


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