It’s no secret that brick-and-mortar retail has been tough for brands, and with Barneys’ recent closing the mood in New York City has been grim. But David Yurman appears to be thriving—the company just opened a three-story, 5,000-square-foot store, designed in collaboration with Michael Gabellini of Gabellini Sheppard Associates, on 5 East 57th Street in Manhattan today. The store was reportedly a year and a half in the making and comes on the heels of the closing of the company’s old store on Madison Ave., which the Yurman family said the company had outgrown. “It was too small to show the depth and the breadth of what we do,” co-owner Sybil Yurman told Robb Report. “Most people still think we’re a silver company; they don’t know the extent of what we design. We have everything from high-jewelry to one-of-a-kind and limited-edition pieces using innovative materials. It’s a showcase for everything that we’re doing right now.”
It’s also a glimpse into the future of the brand. This store was designed by Sybil and David Yurman’s son, Evan, who has long been designing for the company, but has also been responsible for the overall visual presentation of the brand. This, however, was the first time he took the creative reigns on a very important store opening. “It was nerve-racking,” said Evan. “The work was not hard; I’ve been working at the company since I was 20, so I know the cadence and I know the people and everything. I quite enjoy this and it comes naturally, but trying to evolve something that has been in the family was challenging. The stores have always been reflective of my parents’ homes, because it’s supposed to feel residential in a way. This is more of a reflection of how I live. It was difficult for them to stay out of it, but it was nice of them to allow me to interpret the visual future of the brand.” Indeed, David Yurman admitted that it was not easy to stay back and let his son take over the store, but he said he felt he did an amazing job in the end. “It’s soft, it’s inviting, and it’s grand,” said Yurman. “The tonality is right on.” So inviting, that Yurman admitted he had a quiet repose on one of the leather couches in the salon on the men’s floor just a few days ahead of the opening.
“I’m at the age where turning over the reigns and passing on the baton is what’s going on,” said Yurman, who for now at least, remains behind the official reigns at the company. “This is called succession. We just have to figure out how to do it because we [Yurman and his wife, Sybil] don’t want to leave. This is his big baton, this space.” His aesthetic and attention to detail is seen everywhere from the curved display cases, thick-cut glass on the staircase that he wanted to feel like jewelry, the hand-finished natural oak ceiling, inviting neutral tones and modern digital wall displays. “We usually have a heritage wall, that’s like a bookshelf, in all of our stores that tells a story, but here I wanted to make it more digital so some of the displays on the walls are programmable and interactive,” Evan said.
Speaking of some of the gems on display, the highlight is definitely a one-of-a-king Sleeping Beauty turquoise and ruby necklace on the second floor that had everyone’s jaws dropping. “Literally, David and Evan go out and search to find these stones,” Sybil said. “To get turquoise in that size and flat is very unique. It took a great deal of effort to get that. All of the turquoise comes out of America, which is something we really appreciate, being an American relaxed-luxury company. It’s important for us to have a lot of materials that come from within the country.” The store will be better equipped to do custom pieces (men’s pieces can also be customized for women and vice versa) and to meet with clients one-on-one in the private salons on each floor. Furthermore, pieces that were previously only shown to private clients will now be on display here on a limited basis.
So what’s the trick to having a healthy traditional retail business in this era? “For us it’s easy,” said Sybil Yurman. “The reason it’s easy for us to make brick-and-mortar a special experience is that we’re a family and a family brand, so that sense of welcoming and a sense of values. The core values of our company are based on personalized service, personalized attention, making people feel comfortable and we do that in many ways from feeding your dog to crayons for your kids to welcoming a customer in the store. And our staff really has personal relationships with most of our customers.”
Adding to that notion, David Yurman said the company is going to have a few cars stationed outside of the old Madison store to ferry customers over to the new location in case they don’t get the memo about 57th Street. “We’ll have a few cars, like a Maybach, there to bring customers over to the new store that might have shown up at our old Madison Avenue location, thinking that store was open,” said Yurman. “To [our company’s president] Carol Pennelli’s credit, that’s all her doing. We’ll have a white glove service at the new store as well. And, above the new boutique, we know a hairdresser very well who has a place called Panca Salon and we’re offering a 25 percent discount to anyone getting their hair done there.”
When we asked Yurman what his take was on how the brand was keeping its brick-and-mortar retail business booming in the midst of the digital era, he said that this kind of retail used to account or one-third of the entire business. It now counts for half of the business. “It’s not that we do it better,” says Yurman. “But we do.