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Clothing Store Priced Out of Bushwick Finds Cheaper Rent on Lower East Side

By Serena Solomon | January 3, 2014 8:55am
 Mandate of Heaven, with clothing made from vintage fabric, opened its store last week at 17 Essex Street.
Mandate of Heaven
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LOWER EAST SIDE — A clothing store that was priced out of Brooklyn has found cheaper digs on the Lower East Side. 

After bouncing around Bushwick and Williamsburg for the past nine years, moving to a new spot whenever the rent got too high, Mandate of Heaven has finally found a better deal at 17 Essex St. in Manhattan, owner Carissa Ackerman said.

The brand — which sells clothing made from vintage and fair-trade fabrics — just opened its new 300-square-foot storefront last week, where Ackerman said she is paying less than $2,000 per month.

"It is illustrative of what has been going on in Brooklyn," said Ackerman, 31, the designer behind Mandate of Heaven. "The property value has been changing so quickly and we have been pushed out every few years."

Mandate of Heaven left its most recent home, a store operating out of an apartment at 595 Kosciuszko St., last month in the hopes of finding a true storefront space.

Ackerman searched Bushwick and Williamsburg for an affordable spot, but the best she could find was a $2,200-per-month shop at North Sixth and Berry streets with windows so small that Ackerman said she could barely call it a storefront.

In Bushwick, nothing decently sized was less than $2,000 per month, and many spaces were too far for her customers to travel, Ackerman said.

"Bushwick was getting up to almost Williamsburg prices," said Ackerman. "That seems like it is jumping the gun a little for someone who has been in the neighborhood for a while."

Nick Griffin, a commercial broker for aptsandlofts.com, said that while Bushwick tends to be cheaper than the Lower East Side, there are some retail spaces available in both neighborhoods for as low as $50 per square foot, especially south of Delancey Street where Mandate of Heaven is now located.

In the hottest parts of Williamsburg, retail rents have risen to about $250 per square foot, Griffin said, though once you get away from Bedford Avenue they tend to fall back to about $100 per square foot. Rents can even go as low as $50 per square foot around Union Avenue and Broadway, Griffin said.

"The areas that are desirable [in Brooklyn] are expanding," he said of the rising rents.

Steve Gluck, from the Lower East Side-based Misrahi Realty, said he's recently seen spaces south of Delancey Street rent for $60 to $80 per square foot.

"Retail shops are popping up all over the Lower East Side especially below Delancey Street," he said.

In moving to the Lower East Side, Mandate of Heaven will save thousands in rent each year, according to Ackerman. She declined to say what her new monthly rent is.

In addition to being cheaper, the new location suits the label's distinctive aesthetic, Ackerman said. The new Mandate of Heaven shop is in a former Buddhist temple, and it sits atop the Tuff City Styles tattoo parlor and is flanked by two hair salons, including Frank's Chop Shop.

"I like the neighborhood for the young, experimental stuff, the art going on, and I love the history, I love the architecture," Ackerman said.

Ackerman designs out of her apartment in Jersey City, creating four to five new pieces every week from the salvaged vintage and fair-trade fabrics. Her designs include a black Morticia dress from organic bamboo fabric for $350 and a playsuit made from vintage fabric for $320.

Most clothing items are then made to measure for customers or altered by Ackerman to fit their dimensions.

"Much of what we do is one of a kind," she said.