New York State of Mind

It’s 10:30 p.m. on a Monday night, and I’m the fifteenth customer in line at a Fairway Market in Manhattan…

It’s 10:30 p.m. on a Monday night, and I’m the fifteenth customer in line at a Fairway Market in Manhattan. Straining to hold my basket of pricey produce and quick dinner essentials in a razor-thin aisle, I reflect on my recent decision to move to the Big Apple. The rent is high, my Upper East Side apartment is micro-sized, the crowds are absurd, the dating scene is vicious, and let’s not forget about this “off-peak” grocery store line. The place is packed, like they’re giving food away, or maybe it’s a line for some underground nightclub I’m not aware of yet. All the while, flashbacks of wide, sparsely populated suburban supermarket aisles overflowing with bountiful goods dance through my mind. Yet I’ve never been happier about where I live. What is it about this city that’s got me hooked?

It doesn’t make sense on paper, and it goes against the plan. Before my big move, I had been building a secure life in New Jersey—renting a spacious (and much more affordable) apartment, saving money, dating a guy I thought was “the one,” living within 20 minutes of my childhood home and commuting an hour by train to the city and back each day. It was a well-calculated existence that I’d been living for six years. It was designed to culminate in life’s next big stage. One by one, my friends were hitting that suburban trifecta: getting married, buying houses and having babies. But the more people bet on me being the next to fall in line, the less I could ignore my lifelong dream of living in New York.

My friends and family offered numerous reasons why my idea was crazy, but still the city beckoned. Diverse, dynamic and demanding, New York is both beauty and beast. To paraphrase Sinatra, “If you can make it here, you’ll make it anywhere.” I had to find out for myself.

The same can be said for many in the fashion and retail industries. New York is the ultimate proving ground, forcing companies to put their best foot forward or get sent packing. We Noo Yawkas are an unforgiving bunch, demanding and blunt when something isn’t up to snuff. At the same time, we’ll stand in line for hours when something is worthy of the wait.

Take the recently opened Hudson Yards, for example. For everyone who wrote off malls as white elephants, the new retail mecca has injected life into the format in a grandiose, “only in New York” way. The 18-million-square-foot project combines office, residential and retail space. It’s been billed as a “mall of the future,” with fine dining options instead of an overabundance of similar-looking apparel stores, the biggest Equinox gym in the world and direct-to-consumer brands to lure Millennials. Mount Sinai Health System will even be opening a state-of-the-art clinical care center there. Crowds of tourists and locals have been flocking to Hudson Yards, proving that mall-style shopping is not out of fashion; it’s just tired, dingy malls anchored by dying department stores with little experiential entertainment that have lost their luster.

Next to take Manhattan is Nordstrom. The Seattle retailer’s Midtown flagship is set to open late next month. At seven floors and 320,000 square feet, it represents the largest single-project investment in the company’s history. It’s New York big, and the amenities and unique services are impressive. The ability to buy online 24/7 and pick up in store, three-hour same-day delivery, express return kiosks, personal stylists, tailoring and express alterations, free Wi-Fi and complimentary gift boxes are just a few examples. On the kids’ front, there’s nearly an entire floor dedicated to goods and apparel, including exclusive collections sold only at the new flagship, as well as stroller cleaning and tune-up services. The aim, says Beverly Mills, vice president and DMM for kidswear, is building a destination store in the context of “the world’s greatest stores.” I can’t wait to make it a regular stop for shopping—and dining at one of its six enticing options. Suffice to say, this is no Jersey mall food court. Best of all, it’s just a few subway stops from my apartment, or a jog through Central Park.

I’m now about halfway through the checkout line, my basket feels like I’m lugging an air conditioner, and I still have to schlep my provisions two blocks to my tiny apartment. No one said this would be easy. New York is no place for the weak. But I’m up for the challenge—just like the businesses I pass on my walk home, which include a diner, a hair salon, a coffee shop, a Thai restaurant, a vegan ice cream shop, a bar and a couple of dry cleaners. Like me, they know that if you can make it here, you’ll make it anywhere—and they want to be a part of it.

Leave a Comment: