With the arrival of a clandestine new boutique, the South Street Seaport promises more than just tourists. By Meredith Fisher
Shopkeeper Kyung Lee has a knack for navigating un-chartered territory. She opened her first boutique, Albertine, in 2003 on a desolate stretch of Christopher Street, and by the time her second store, Claudine, opened two years later, the strip off of Sixth Avenue was a buzzing destination for other indie retailers. Now, with her latest venture Leontine, the Korea-born owner is going where few boutiques have gone before—the South Street Seaport.
"I really fell in love with the area down here," recalls Lee, who herself lives on John Street. "The pace is slower—you just don't feel that same hustle and bustle as you might elsewhere in the city." The area's quiet charm has already given way to the Historic Front Street project, a residential and retail development with its fair share of entrepreneurial tenants such as Jack's Coffee and wine shop Pasanella. "I really feel this area has the potential to be the next It spot for shopping," says Lee, who plans on dressing the well-heeled crowd that has been making the riverside pilgrimage to restaurants like Stella Maris and Bin no.220.
But Kyong doesn't plan on stopping at fashion. "I've always wanted to do a complete concept—a lifestyle store—where you feel like you're escaping to a different place." For Lee that means offering everything from fresh-cut flowers to French antiques, coffee to cashmere sweaters, and, of course, her signature line of Seymour ballet flats. "I try to stock all my stores with items that are not over-designed," says Lee. "Articles that are not just of the season, but things that you can keep and pass down."
Known for being the first to champion unknowns—designers Alice Ritter, Kathy Kemp, and Christopher Deane all got a start at Albertine—Lee continues the tradition by being one of the only stores in Manhattan to carry Santa Maria Novella products, handmade, one-off pieces by Christina Hattler, and linens from John Robshaw. Racks of vintage frocks will come courtesy of SoHo's Legacy vintage, and the store will debut Delphine, a line of intricate gold cameos and Italios that was a collaboration with jewelry designer Philippa Content. She's already made a trip down to New Orleans to pick up antique furnishings that double as stock, including a huge farm table that currently serves up soft sweaters from Souci. "I wanted the space to feel like an apartment and I'm hoping that we can host dinners, and other non-shopping events—I'm hoping it will be like a 1920s salon."
Leontine, 226 Front Street, 212-766-1066
Photographs by Alisha Levin
With the arrival of a clandestine new boutique, the South Street Seaport promises more than just tourists.