The Church of Shopping
Such is the hype surrounding Limelight Marketplace, a 25,000 square foot facility housed in a 163-year-old Episcopal church most famous for being the raucous Limelight nightclub in the late '80s/early '90s.
Offering a turnkey solution designed to attract established and up-and-coming boutique brands, Limelight, scheduled to open in March, can't run far enough away from the tag "shopping mall." Conceptualized by veteran Manhattan retailer Jack Menashe, Limelight offers its tenants the opportunity to break into brick-and-mortar retail without all the up-front costs.
State-of-the-art point-of-sale systems, technology, maintenance and even utilities are covered in retailers' lease agreements, leaving them to focus solely on selling their wares. Even shopping bags and gift cards are provided — branded with the Limelight Marketplace logo, of course.
"Limelight Marketplace relieves retailers of the financial burden and stress that goes along with a traditional lease," says Menashe. "The spaces are built-out; marketing, PR and visual merchandising services are provided. In addition, they're not locked into a 10-year deal. Retailers just have to show up with their goods!"
Harkening back to the medieval days of feudal European marketplaces, Limelight will offer shoppers a variety of courtyards, unique architecture and design, and roving entertainment. The building itself will retain its Gothic character, with the original stonework, stained glass windows and balustrades all incorporated into the design. As for the retailers themselves, their space is limited, ranging from 150 square feet to 1,200 square feet per store.
With upward of 75 percent of all available units leased as of press time (approximately 60 shop spaces were available), Limelight Marketplace promises to offer consumers a diverse and eclectic group of retailers to shop from. This fact wasn't lost on Caswell-Massey, the multichannel apothecary retailer who's already inked a deal to be part of the venture.
The community aspect of Limelight made it a no-brainer, at least according to Michael Miarecki, principal of Caswell-Massey. "Much of it is about your neighbors," he says, "and they're going to attract the customers that we want to attract — new customers to Caswell-Massey. Any brand that can last 250 years has to continually develop and reach out to new customer bases."
Some of those neighbors will include Hunter Boots, Sabon, J. Sisters, Mari's New York and more. Within this community comes the opportunity for cross-promotions and events to help tenants complement each other, which Menashe says is at the "core" of the Limelight business model. Leasing the units has been done with the idea of reaching consumers across the board.
So for Caswell-Massey, when Mari's New York is downstairs selling fudge brownies, upstairs it can sell its wonderfully appetizing products. There's a nice synergy there, ?says Miarecki.
While this all sounds well and good, Limelight still has to prove that it's different — and better — than your average suburban shopping mall. Avoiding big-name brands in favor of artisanal craft retailers is a good start, but don't flea markets already have that space covered? And I'm sure at much lower prices. But if you find yourself in New York, it's certainly worth checking out — if for the beauty of the building alone.