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Madison Avenue Thrives While Storefronts In Other Parts of City Go Dark

By  Shaye Weaver and Nigel Chiwaya | September 1, 2016 1:48pm 

 International women's clothing shop Veronica Beard opened at 988 Madison Ave. on Aug. 23 with jackets, blouses, dresses and other items catering to the professional woman.
International women's clothing shop Veronica Beard opened at 988 Madison Ave. on Aug. 23 with jackets, blouses, dresses and other items catering to the professional woman.
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Veronica Beard

UPPER EAST SIDE — While retail spaces in some parts of the city are going barren, new high-end boutiques are continuing to pop up along Madison Avenue, with 20 new businesses opening on the stretch just this year.

It's strong local demand that's driving luxury designers to grab up storefronts along the stretch from 57th to 86th Streets — with as much as 60 percent of customer traffic coming from the Upper East Side and surrounding neighborhoods, according to Matthew Brauer, president of the Madison Avenue Business Improvement District

The number of businesses that opened this year is already at pace to exceed previous years' numbers — with 27 opening in 2014 and 21 in 2015, according to Bauer.

Already this year, 20 new businesses have opened shop on Madison Avenue, though at least 14 shops left the stretch this year too, including Elaine Turner, Gucci, Lisa Perry and Mulberry, he added.

"Luxury brands recognize that this is a strong place to invest because there is a strong local dedicated market," he said. "It's an international shopping street with five hotels, but at the same time, so many clients are local. Because of that local market, Madison Avenue will always be a safe investment."

At Michael's Consignment Shop — which has been on Madison Avenue near East 80th Street since 1954 — roughly 60 to 70 percent of its customers are from the Upper East Side and the rest come from the tri-state area, other states, and other countries, said Laura Fluhr, the company's president and owner.

And newer shops like Sugarfina, a luxury candy store that opened in June, are benefiting from the local draw, according to Rosie O'Neill, the company's co-founder.

"Now that people are returning from summer holiday, we’re seeing a nice uptick in locals shopping at the boutique and learning about the brand," she said.

A dip in average asking rent could also be enticing new businesses to the corridor.

The average asking rent for ground floor retail space on Madison Avenue between 57th and 72nd streets dropped roughly 3 percent this year, from $1,700-per-square-foot in the spring of 2015 to $1,644-per-square-foot in the same period this year, according to the Real Estate Board of New York.

"The luxury retail market has slowed and exclusive brands have delayed leasing new space until they can determine how this sector of the market will play out," says REBNY's Spring 2016 retail report.

"This has brought onto the market more prestigious, higher-priced spaces in addition to spaces at the lower end of the price spectrum, the combination of which resulted in this slightly lower average asking rent for the corridor.”

By comparison, neighborhoods like Tribeca and SoHo are experiencing a rising number of closing businesses, largely due to increasing rents, according to a new map called "Vacant New York."

Madison Avenue is also home to a lot of historic buildings and townhomes, offering unique types of retail spaces, according to Bauer.

Italian leather purveyor Bottega Veneta took over five floors of three landmarked townhouses at 740 Madison Ave. and 24-25 E. 64th St. in December 2014.

"Madison Avenue is not vanilla boxes," Bauer said. "It's not like going into a shopping mall. The historic architecture is used to further the shopping experience. There's a sense of charm maintained."

Here's a closer look at a few shops that have recently opened on Madison Avenue:

► Veronica Beard, 988 Madison Ave. at East 77th Street

International women's clothing shop Veronica Beard opened on Aug. 23 with jackets, blouses, dresses and other items catering to the professional woman. The new spot also has a hat collection exclusive to the Madison Avenue store and also offers skin care, fragrances, totes, shoes and undergarments from various brands.

► Sugarfina, 1100 Madison Ave. at East 83rd Street

Sugarfina opened in June with alcoholic-flavored candies, including rosé flavored gummies, champagne gummy bears, chocolate pieces with shots of Scotch inside, and other tasty treats. The company has a small kiosk at Columbus Circle, and decided to open its first brick and mortar store in New York City on Madison Avenue. 

► Sweaty Betty, 1153 Madison Ave. at East 85th Street

London-based sportswear company Sweaty Betty takes a more fashionable approach to work out clothes, from mesh workout leggings to yoga camis and Pilates socks.

► S.J. Shrubsole, 28 E. 81 St. at Madison Avenue

S.J. Shrubsole, founded in London, has been selling antique jewelry and silver in New York since 1936 but just opened its second location here on Madison Avenue. From jeweled brooches to English silver spoons, S.J. Shrubsole has a slew of precious metals and accessories to choose from.

► Moynat, 937 Madison Ave. at East 74th Street

Moynat, a Parisian company that's been around for more than a century, opened its first U.S. shop this year on Madison Avenue, selling leather goods including colorful handbags, small cardholders, coin wallets, key chains, notebooks and more. 

The map below shows all of the stores that have opened since January this year, according to the Madison Avenue Business Improvement District​: