The New Normal: Boards Coming Down, Madison Avenue Opening Up

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For as long as I can remember, New York has been a city in transition. We are certainly going through a big one now, one that was thrust upon us back in February and March. We are starting to open up, albeit slowly, and while there are definitely going to be some permanent changes, nobody yet knows what the new normal will be.

Last I checked, human nature has not changed during the shutdown, as evidenced by scores of New Yorkers emerging, whether flocking to our parks or hanging out at the newly invented social distancing take-away bars all over the city. In Phase 1, stores are being allowed to open for curbside pick up. It is fascinating to speak to the store owners and managers, and see how they are experiencing this new normal. The death of George Floyd brought peaceful protests to our streets, but also looting by those who sought to profit from that tragedy.

Madison Avenue under lock down had been pretty bizarre. Many stores had been totally emptied of their merchandise, and many just had a few pieces in the windows. Once the looting began, the boards went up, and the Avenue felt deserted. And sad. The stores are now slowly emerging, just like the flowers and trees that have come to life in nearby Central Park.

New York draws people in with its stores and restaurants. And Madison Avenue is home to several hundred stores catering to many different kinds of customers. All these businesses have suffered greatly and we, New Yorkers, need them to survive. And our city needs the tourists who generate a lot of business. Whether family owned or outlets of corporate giants, we need to support our local businesses. Online shopping is good for some things, but it will never replace the real thing. Human beings, for the most part, thrive on contact. So let’s applaud the stores and restaurants; venture out, properly masked and socially distanced, and lend them a hand.

The boards coming down at Lora Piana.

It was a wonderful sight to see the boards starting to come down. These two men were happy to be freeing Loro Piana of its black boards.

The boards are down!

All stores on Madison Avenue are following the protocols for a safe reopening. They are being cleaned and sanitized. The larger the store, the longer it will take, obviously. Those stores will open later than the smaller boutiques. With curbside pickup, stores can slowly reopen while they sanitize. Each store is working a little bit differently, but they are all committed to our safety.

Putting the Loro Piana store back together again.

It is inspiring to see this rebirth. One of the means of keeping people safe is a new way to handle merchandise. If you try something on and it doesn’t work for you, the stores are holding it aside for 48 hours and sanitizing the items before anyone else can try it on or buy it.

Loro Piana, Madison and 65th Street

The Altuzurra boutique is happy to serve you now.

Altuzurra is a young brand that moved into this space before the shutdown. Clothing and accessories are found on two levels. They have a staff that is dedicated to helping their customers.

One of your personal shoppers, Robb, is happy to help you shop.

Brandon and Robb have been working in the new normal. A client who lives nearby walked by the store one morning. Soon after, she sent an email inquiring about some things she had seen in the window. They called her back and informed her that the items will be waiting for her until she returns from the country after the weekend. How’s that for the new normal!? The duo is also doing virtual styling, working with customers on Zoom, Facetime, and other mediums. If you are a current client, not in the city currently, reach out to them. They will work with you.

Customers are shopping the windows.

If you are in the city, stop by for a look, or reach out by phone and email.  A stylist came to the window one day and asked to see some pieces through the front door — she left with several pieces. Since a lot of the merchandise is on the second floor, they are happy to bring looks downstairs.

Inside the store bags are easy to see.

If you see something you like, they are happy to make suggestions of other looks you might like. Take them home, try them on, and if they don’t work simply bring them back. As per above, all merchandise is held and sanitized. The store has also set up a small temporary dressing room on the ground floor for phase 2 to make things easier for their clients. They are also getting orders on their website, and shipping clothes to customers overseas.

AltuzarraMadison Avenue at 70th Street

Artbag was one of the first to open.

Artbag is possibly the oldest business on Madison Avenue, founded in 1932. After several generations in one family, it was sold to another. Chris Moore, pictured below, learned his craft well from his father. There is a workroom in the back with almost 90 years of knowledge and expertise.

Open for sales and repairs.

There are new bags made by Artbag for sale. The workrooms that do the repairs are located in the back of the building, and every bag that comes into the store is sterilized before the workers touch it, and again before it leaves the store. Mr. Moore says he is happy to be back at work —”it’s rather boring not working.” He is excited to see what the next months hold. More stores are starting to reopen, and he is looking forward to seeing his customers again. “I miss them!”

Artbag, Madison Avenue at 84th Street

Mona Lisa was one of the first to open.

Mona Lisa is a small children’s boutique filled with adorable clothes. The brand is Italian, and the product is all made in Italy. The staff is delighted to be back in the store, and working.

The staff at Mona Lisa is here to help.

They were hesitant at first about opening, but found the response from the customers phenomenal. Customers knock on the glass to place orders, for their children, for grandchildren or friends.

Hand sanitizer and wipes front and center.

Mona Lisa is currently offering a 50% discount on current merchandise. Everyone normally wears masks, and they have wipes, alcohol and hand sanitizer available. Safety protocols are in place.

Mona Lisa, Madison Avenue between 82 and 83rd Streets

Djula is a French jewelry brand.

I first shopped in a Djula store in Paris years ago. The pieces are designed in France, and are unique.

A small shop will bring items to the door.

The manager said that the last few months had been a bit rough, but they are glad to be back for curbside pickup. You can stop by the store, or call to make an appointment. Pieces are brought to the doorway for you to review.

Customers can shop through the window.

Some customers walk by the store and shop through the window. Since the store is a jewel box, it is easy to shop this way. Everyone is adopting to this new normal, where shoppers can feel safe.

Inside the Djula Store.

Djula is offering some discounts of 20-30% with a few pieces at 50% off. Getting back to normal with jewelry is a bit different as jewelry is a “want” — not a “need.” These days maybe it’s a treat. The brand has not done this before, but they are open to new ways of shopping.

Djula, Madison Avenue between 74th and 75th Streets

The Peress store welcomes you.

Peress is another long time resident of Madison Avenue. Mr. Peress’s father moved the store to Madison in 1955. Like Artbag, the store has occupied several different locations over the years. They are true Madison Avenue Landmarks.

Mr. Herbert Peress himself.

The store is working though their website and with phone calls  and customers stopping by the shop. All the safety protocols are being adhered to. Mr. Peress is thrilled to be open for curbside or door side pick up on Madison, and is looking forward to a more moderate and safe reopening in the next few weeks.

Comfort clothes for sale.

Peress is known for its selection of robes, lounge wear, sleepwear and lingerie (for men and women). Downtime dressing at its best. Just what you need to keep you comfortable.

Peress, Madison Avenue between 80th and 81st Streets.

See on the corner of 83rd Street.

See Eyewear is a Detroit based family owned business that designs and produces its own product in Italy. They only sell their own designs, made in very limited quantities. See is currently open for appointment-only visits for buying new glasses, or repairs and adjustments. The brand has a one-of-a-kind approach. These are not luxury brand licensed designs as many other stores carry, with super high prices. They are cool and affordable, with an American attitude.

Everything you need to see is here.

Paul Rothstein is manning the boutique. An eye wear veteran, he feels that it is important to open up slowly. It is important that the clients feel safe, and this is possible with one-on-one appointments. He personally sanitized the store, and keeps it that way. He is happy that he offers a boutiquey Madison Avenue shopping experience, and that they are opening safely.

See Eyewear, Madison Avenue at 83rd Street

The new Fivestory boutique is getting ready to open.

Fivestory is opening in a new space. The store was purchased by Karen Murray back in November, and had already leased a fabulous new space when the shutdown happened. The new store now is ready, and will be available for private appointments. The space is sort of similar to the original space, with a townhouse feel.

Preparing for the opening.

Fivestory always had an interesting mix of designers, but now customers will find many of their favorite designers. Exciting new designers have been added to the mix. Fivestory has been able to add designers that had been exclusive to the now-closed and closing Barney’s and Jeffrey. Home goods are being introduced, as well as a some vintage/pre-loved clothing and jewelry.

All the clothes are being put into place.

Fivestory is proud of their gorgeous new location, and they cannot wait to welcome back clients, and meet new ones. With their intimate sized store, curated luxury assortment, and their focus on service and safety, it will certainly be reassuring for their customers at this unusual time. Personally I am looking forward to experiencing the new space.

Fivestory, Madison Avenue between 78th and 79th Streets.

Camilla Dietz Bergeron is open for private appointments.

Camilla Dietz Bergeron is located a few flights up over Madison Avenue. The boutique specializes in fabulous vintage jewelry. They have pretty much always operated by private appointment, and will continue to do so now.

The staff is ready to assist you.

Jane, Gus, the owner of the salon, and Carmela are looking forward to greeting you. Jane says that it feels good to come back to the familiar and that the salon is the heart of their business, something that the clients and staff know intimately. They plan to move forward, do what they do best, and provide a service that is both safe and one of a kind.

Pieces inside the boutique.

They are also launching a website for clients who do not want to shop in the salon. Of course the staff will be available to help by phone or email with links on the site to prompt you to ask for help. There is a lot to explore here in person or online.

Camilla Dietz Bergeron, Madison Avenue between 68th and 69th Streets

The Anine Bing outpost on Madison is opening.

Anine Bing is also reopening for curbside pick up this week. They are all happy to be back in their beautiful store, with co-workers social distancing while working with clients. They are eager to reconnect with them, as they haven’t seen them in over 3 months. Their clients are “like family.”

A carefully edited look.

The Los Angeles based contemporary brand is looking forward to providing personalized 1 on 1 shopping, which has always been the primary focus of the store. They are currently launching their Summer collection, and Alejandro Arias and the staff can’t wait to share all these new styles.

Anine Bing, Madison Avenue between 69th and 70th Street

The Westside.

The Westside is a multi-brand store that carries California inspired clothing with a laid back luxury feel. They cannot wait to see you for curbside pick up to share their new summer collection, and in person when Phase 2 kicks in.

The store was being set up last week.

 The Westside is a one-stop Summer destination. Renata, the store manager, says that they will continue to take extra care to keep their clients and team safe and healthy by offering virtual styling sessions to help you find what is just right.

The Westside offers everything from floral dresses to cutoff shorts, everyday tees, a multitude of jeans and pants,  and chic blouses and swimwear.

The Westside, Madison Avenue between 85th and 86th Streets.

Everafter is a one-of-a-kind neighborhood boutique, featuring the best designers, and handpicked outfits and accessories for the modern parent, kid and teen. Their curated offerings are sophisticated and include new arrivals, gifts, and other cool stuff.

A team member getting the boutique ready.

Samara, the store manager, says the team is so excited to welcome shoppers back to their Madison Avenue store. They are currently offering curbside pickup, and will work with you through virtual styling sessions. Their goal is for the team and clients to feel safe while shopping. And they too look forward to welcoming you into the store as soon as possible.

Everafter, Madison Avenue and 84th Street

The Tom Ford store returning to normal.

The Tom Ford store is now open for curbside pickup. Down come the boards and in goes the merchandise.

Tom Ford, Madison Avenue at 61st Street


Pomellato is open for phone orders and curbside pickup.

Pomellato, Madison Avenue between 64th and 65th Streets

Akris is open for curbside pickup.

Akris is also open. Reach out to your salesperson here, or in any of the other stores, for help. Get virtual styling help and tips. If you don’t have a sales person you already work with, reach out anyway. They are all eager to help.

Alexander McQueen.

The Alexander McQueen store is also open. Different stores have different hours. I suggest you check out the website or call to get hours.

Alexander McQueen, Madison Avenue between 64th and 65th Streets

Carolina Herrera is getting ready, too.

Carolina Herrera will be open soon.

Carolina Herrera, Madison Avenue at 75th Street

Chanel will be opening too.

The boards are mostly down at Chanel. This store was looted and obviously has a bit more clean up and repair to do before they can open to the public.

Chanel, Madison Avenue at 64th Street

Getting ready chez Celine.

It was exciting to walk past Celine, and see the team setting the store up, and a full cleaning crew going to work. They are now open for curbside pickup.

Celine, Madison Avenue at 59th Street

Balenciaga has merchandise in the store again.

For a few months both Balenciaga and Celine had been a bit depressing to walk by, as they had totally emptied out their stores. Balenciaga is now open and doing curbside pickup, too. The store looks great.

Bottega Veneta is stocked again.

Bottega Veneta is full of clothing and accessories, and the boards are down. Hopefully they will open soon.

Bottega Veneta, Madison Avenue at 64th Street

Gabriela Hearst and Vera Wang Get Ready to Open.

Gabriela Hearst and Vera Wang are both located in the Carlyle Hotel. I spotted people working in both stores last week. Vera Wang is currently open, and since the Gabriela Hearst store has merchandise in it, hopefully it too will soon open.

Gabriela Hearst and Vera Wang, Madison Avenue between 76th and 77th Streets

Hermes and Jimmy Choo.

Thank goodness the looters were unable to pry the boards off the Hermes boutique. There are some videos circulating that show the store being attacked, with cars driving by until the police arrived. Here’s hoping that both Hermes and Jimmy Choo reopen quickly. Let’s all move towards the new normal slowly, while following all correct guidelines and respecting one another at all times.

Hermes and Jimmy ChooMadison Avenue at 62nd Street

Barbara Hodes is the owner of NYC Private Shopping Tour, offering customized tours in New York and Brooklyn

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