For months now, we've been passing a sign that covered the windows on the long, thin former bar on the corner of West Broadway and North More. "A Man Walks Into a Bar, Orders a Madras, and Walks Out With a Pair of Pants." Witty, if cryptic, we thought. Then we heard that men's style arbiter Andy Spade had collaborated with Todd Snyder's design team to open a new J. Crew men's capsule store. Suddenly, it all made sense.
Last night, we stepped in for root beers and stronger beverages at the charming, old-New-York watering hole whose landmark-status interiors and exterior have only been improved by a total lack of J. Crew branding and a healthy dose of manly antique tchotchkes provided by Mr. Spade. Mr. Snyder remarked that the store represented the latest step in J. Crew's expansion beyond America's malls, pointing out the Alden shoes and classic barracuda jackets that aren't available at their normal outlets (or most anywhere else for that matter.) While the edited selection from J. Crew's collections showed the brand's upward mobility, it was the fact that almost 50 percent of the on-site merchandise came from other brands—men's grooming line Aesop included—that gave the unmarked bar the flavor of an independent boutique instead of the outgrowth of a multinational corporation. The paintings above the fireplace and the stack of Smiths albums in the back room helped too. Bottoms up!