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The Liquor Store

“The larger a brand gets, the more it has to make sure it acts personal,” writes Anthony Sperduti in Bloomberg Businessweek (1/28/13). The brand to which Anthony is referring is J Crew, for which acting personal manifested itself in “a defunct 850-square-foot Tribeca bar” that his firm, Partners & Spade converted into a “standalone menswear shop.” The idea sprang from CEO Mickey Drexler’s mandate to figure out a way to get J Crew into the conversation about menswear in blogs that tend to prefer talking about smaller brands. “Our answer,” writes Anthony, “was a small space with no overt branding that was outside the retail corridor.”

Because the site was “in a landmark building,” the sign outside — a neon classic that simply read: Liquor Store — couldn’t be changed. Anthony and his team worked with J Crew to “recontextualize” J Crew, bringing in “collections of toy soldiers and trumpets, little eccentric things you might see in a bar.” Neckties were packaged in lowball glasses and the walls “showcased the work of local artists, photographers and filmmakers.” J Crew also brought in brands other than its own. “This generation wants their brands to be personal, not corporate, with a unique point of view,” says Anthony.

The experience certainly marked a departure from the traditional J Crew experience for men. “Before, men had to walk through the women’s department into the basement,” Anthony writes. “We wanted to give men their own world. We hired people who weren’t just typical retail salespeople, they were filmmakers, painters, photographers. We created an environment that had its own character and personality.” It was also cost-effective: “The rent was half of what a billboard in Tribeca would have cost,” writes Anthony, adding: “There is more than one way to re-brand a company. Offering something experiential and acting smaller reverberates on a much larger scale.”