Over the last few years, the Brooklyn-born Bird boutique has become one of our favorite treasure troves—selling up-and-coming designers, indie-stalwarts, and home goods with a laid-back style and service with a smile. On the eve of the opening of its new Williamsburg location on Grand Street, we spoke to Jennifer Mankins, who's overseen an expansion of the store's reach and popularity since she took the reigns in 2004. On top of letting us snap a few shots of her new digs, she gave us the skinny on the new location and what is (or isn't) around the corner for Bird.
How long had you been planning to expand into a new store?
I've been entertaining the notion for a couple of years, and seriously planning since last winter.
Seems like half of the boutiques in town are closing or scaling back. Even Starbucks is closing 400 locations. But you're expanding instead of contracting in this economy.
I signed my lease last spring, when the economic outlook was much rosier. Fall was tough, but sales at our other two stores are holding steady, and our online sales have doubled this year. We're working harder than ever, and hope to make the most of a beautiful space, great location and a dedicated community of customers.
More questions, answers, and pics below.
What about the new neighborhood drew you in?
I've been in love with Grand Street for a long time. I'm drawn to South Williamsburg in general, some of my favorite people, shops and restaurants are here.
Tell us about the building you found.
It's my dream space and I knew it the second I walked in the door. Looking beyond the maze of peach-colored drywall and Styrofoam, I saw 15-foot ceilings, two storefronts, industrial skylights, striking brick walls, and 2500 sq ft to play with.
Your remodeling is the first LEED certified, "green restoration" in Brooklyn. What kind of hoops did you have to jump through to get certified?
We're not certified yet, still jumping through hoops, but we're on track and will hopefully get certified by the US Green Building Council in the next two months. Honestly, my dream team architect and contractor (Ole Sondresen and William Dorvillier) have been doing most of the jumping. Endless hours of bureaucratic paperwork, meticulous reuse and recycling of materials and very strict sustainability codes for everything from paint to light bulbs. One of the hardest things was getting city approval for the basement shower room, which gives us one point toward certification because it encourages us to bike and run to work.
Tell us about the new customer base you're looking for in the new spot.
Hopefully more of the same. Bird customers are creative, independent, and well-informed. They appreciate and seek out great design, whether it's a $5 soap or $500 coat. Also expecting a lot of stylish men.
How will the selection differ from the other stores?
More menswear, for one. We're also adding several new lines, including some great designers from Argentina (Pesquiera, Felix and Hermanos Estebecorena) and exquisite collections from Thakoon and Yigal Azrouëaut;l.
And the atmosphere? The decor? The service?
A warm friendly atmosphere and excellent service is something we strive for in all the Bird stores. But the seductive smell of our salvaged pinewood walls has taken everyone by surprise.
Now that the new spot is open, do you have a chance to take a breath?
Not quite yet. Still plenty of work to be done, and I probably won't come up for air until April or May.
Are you already looking forward to another expansion?
Hell no. Unless it's expanding a beach chair on Corsica.