West Elm is returning to the borough where it all began. Fourteen years ago, the brand established its first store in Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood. This month, it is opening its 100th store, in the same neighborhood, at Brooklyn Bridge Park, becoming the first tenant at the new waterfront shopping center Empire Stores. Spanning 14,265 square feet of ground-floor space, West Elm is the center’s anchor tenant. Spokesperson Andres “Dru” Ortega chatted with EAL about the company’s next steps.
How did you choose the location?
Dumbo is where West Elm was born in 2002. The brand has grown from opening one store in 2003 at the corner of Front Street and Main Street to 100 stores globally. It made sense to further cement our roots in Brooklyn and particularly the neighborhood we’ve always called home.
What are some of the space’s special features that are not available in other locales?
Each store is unique to the community and neighborhood where it’s located. For West Elm Dumbo, the location was once home to Arbuckle Bros. Coffee Co. and stood as a landmark of the Brooklyn Bridge Park waterfront for locals and tourists alike. The new store design honors the building’s history and preserves reminders of its past as a coffee warehouse.
Salvaged wood from the original atrium has been repurposed to create a unique loft floor with a specially designed tiled motif. The site’s original columns and rafters are left untouched—leaving tally marks, writing and other nicks—as relics of its past. A mural of the Brooklyn Bridge commissioned specifically for the store and made entirely of reclaimed barn siding and pine with a Northeastern provenance sits as a backdrop to the cash register. A coffee bar inside the new West Elm Market will be operated by Brooklyn Roasters and will offer shoppers, locals and tourists a communal space to connect, meet and stay. A kitchen demonstration station will provide opportunities for local vendors to offer tastings and host demos or events.
What are some of the most notable hallmarks of growth as West Elm has expanded since its first store opened?
West Elm has opened 100 stores worldwide with another nine stores slated to open across the U.S., in addition to dedicated shop-in-shops inside the U.K.’s leading department store, John Lewis. West Elm was the first home retailer to offer Fair Trade Certified products, and has pledged certification of more than 20 percent of its product assortment by 2017 and 40 percent by 2019, as part of its commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative. This represents more than $1 million in Fair Trade premiums that will go back to the hands of workers in the next four years.
Today, West Elm collaborates with over 20 artisans in 15 countries to produce handcrafted products that help preserve age-old crafting traditions. Since 2013, the West Elm LOCAL program has supported over 500 makers, designers and artists in 75-plus stores; this equates to more than 4,500 products handmade in North America. In 2015, West Elm expanded into the contract market with the launch of West Elm Workspace, a line of contract-grade office furniture, flooring and accessories designed for a new generation of workers. Most recently, West Elm announced its exclusive partnership with Casper to offer customers an opportunity to test its mattresses inside all U.S. West Elm stores.
Where will the 101st store open?
West Elm’s 101st store will open in Palm Springs, California.