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Orchard Street Designer Speaks Out About Boutique Attack

By Nicole Bode | June 15, 2011 1:34pm | Updated on June 16, 2011 10:15am

By Andrea Swalec, Ben Fractenberg and Nicole Bode

DNAinfo Staff

LOWER EAST SIDE — The designer and co-founder of an Orchard Street clothing store who was slammed through his front window while trying to stop a group of shoplifters told one of his attackers, "You're not going to do this today."

Richard Ives, 46, co-owner of Pilgrim at 70 Orchard St., said he went into auto pilot as he wrestled with a wiry man who tackled him through a window during an attempt to shoplift a $2,200 vintage Chanel purse.

Ives' partner Brian Bennett, who was also injured in the scuffle, said a female accomplice was desperate to get her hands on the designer bag in the window.

"She wanted Chanel. She was willing to die for it," Bennett said Wednesday.

Ives said he knew the instant the three men and a woman came into his store Tuesday evening that something was amiss.

"I could tell that there was something off kilter about it right away," said Ives, who was back at his West Village home Wednesday afternoon.

Ives said the group wandered around the store, picking up merchandise and putting it down in different locations, before asking the price of the $2,200 Chanel "maxi" bag in sand-colored suede that was in the store's window.

Ives — who stands 6 feet tall, weighs 235 pounds and works out five days a week — and Bennett, who is 6-foot-5, walked over to the window to keep an eye on the group.

"I was going to play his game but figured, with both of us at the door, he would have trouble getting out of the store with it," said Ives, who said one of the men then reached out and swept a rack of ready-to-wear clothing of his design onto the floor.

"I could see the anger and frustration in his demeanor and I knew it wasn't going to be easy," he said.

Without warning, a man charged Ives, tackling him through the window. His breath smelled of alcohol and he looked "erratic" and "disturbed," Ives said.

"I heard the sound of the glass shattering," Ives said. "Your mind knows this is a bad thing, but I didn't feel anything. I just wanted to get the guy."

The next thing he knew, he was lying on his back on the other side of the glass on the sidewalk, wrestling with his assailant, he said. His head was covered in blood, and pieces of his scalp were torn off, he said.

"You are not going to do this today, you are not going to do this today," Ives told the man.

But Ives turned the tables on his attacker, picking him up slamming him into the wall. "I was just trying to stop him."

Bennett dove into the scuffle, and was kicked in the back of the head by another assailant, Ives said.

"I could tell [the attacker] wanted to kill [Bennett]," Ives said.

The crew fled — with a gold Anne Klein mesh necklace worth approximately $600 — but was chased down by Ives' neighbors and held until police could arrive.

"They were the real heroes," Ives said. "Everybody pitched in."

Doctors had to put more than 70 stitches into his forehead, the back of his head and his arms and hands, and parts of his skull were protruding when he arrived at Bellevue Medical Center, he said. He said a CAT scan revealed no brain injuries.

Police have arrested Dennis Brunson, 20, of Midtown; Travis Sims, 29, of Harlem; and Enjolie Evans, 23, of Harlem, in conjunction with the attack.

The trio were charged Wednesday with robbery and possession of stolen property. Evans was also charged with possession of burglar’s tools, police said. Police are still searching for a fourth suspect.

Benson was carrying a necklace, which he allegedly admitted stealing, when he was caught by police, according to the complaint. Evans allegedly had a wire cutter and a host of other merchandise with the pricetags still attached, according to the complaint.

Brunson and Evans were ordered held without bail and sent to Rikers Wednesday. Sims was ordered held on $10,000 bail. The trio is due back in court Monday.

Ives and Bennett opened the Lower East Side store in 2009 after careers in high fashion and photography. Ives is a designer who has worked as a stylist for fashion photographers including Richard Avedon, as well as fashion lines from Donna Karan to Ellen Tracy.

The store had been a prior target for shoplifting, and Ives said he believes he recognized the woman's voice from two prior shoplifting incidents in which a $1,800 vintage Chanel makeup bag was stolen.

The store hadn't used security cameras prior to the attack, but Ives said "obviously that’s going to be something we do" in the future.

Still, he said he doesn't like the idea of adding a buzzer to their front door, as some other stores do to add security. "I don’t want to be the kind of store that buzzes people in... Once you start acting fatalistically about the world, it’s a problem."

Instead, he said he'd like to see police presence on the block in a consistent manner. He added that the police response after the attack was fantastic.

Ives said he's glad the incident has been getting attention in the media, and wants to send one message to anyone who would think about targeting his block again.

"Don’t mess with us on Orchard Street,” he said.