You know those little turquoise boxes from Tiffany’s, the ones with a big white bow? Apparently, they are among the great icons of the world—up there, I suppose, with the pyramids, the Great Wall of China and the Eiffel Tower. At least, that’s what Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff said at Wednesday's grand opening of the new Tiffany & Co. store on Wall Street.
“So many of us have enjoyed Tiffany products in our lives,” Mr. Doctoroff gushed.
I’m not sure his words registered with the coffee-cart vendors whom Tiffany’s had contracted to display turquoise umbrellas and give out free coffee (in turquoise paper cups) and cookies, but Mr. Doctoroff was probably right about most of the hundred or so well-heeled tourists and Wall Street types who came to watch the ribbon-cutting and partake of free breakfast and gift bags.
Not to mention: check out the new store, which is rather stunning. The 11,000-square- foot space boasts 35-foot ceilings, restored marble floors and elaborate friezes and panels. Located at 37 Wall Street, around the corner from the New York Stock Exchange, it sits at the bottom of a 25-story Beaux Arts-style skyscraper from 1907.
The glittering, glass-encased jewelry is set off by wire mesh lighting fixtures from which crystal drops cascade.
Luxury certainly abounds, but does this signal a new era for lower Manhattan, a return to its previous grandeur? Mr. Doctoroff says yes. The first Tiffany & Co. opened in 1837 just around the corner. But in response to the city’s changing demographics, the store kept migrating uptown. “The history of Tiffany & Co.’s gradual move north traces the slow decline of lower Manhattan over generations,” he said.
What remains to be seen is whether the store will perform as well as expected when it was announced in June of 2006—back when Wall Street earnings were heady and sub-prime loans were sources of revenue, not red ink, for the major investment banks. Clearly, the mood on Wall Street has changed.
Last week, Merrill Lynch posted its first quarterly loss since the high-tech bubble burst in 2001. All in all, the biggest banks on Wall Street have posted more than $5 billion in losses from bad loans in recent months. All in all, it’s not poised to be a great year for bonuses, which could spell bad news for the new retailer.
But, at the grand opening, the mood was cheery, and penny-pinching was certainly not a priority.
A small orchestra played “Moon River” on the street, while bejeweled models in turquoise dresses posed for media and others—in black, Holly Golightly gear—traversed the crowd and posed with tourists in photos.
And when the doors finally opened: Trumpeters dressed like the footmen of the robber barons heralded the opening of the store in much the same fashion as kings are welcomed in other parts of the world. Whether or not the store lives up to expectations, it certainly made its entrance to the neighborhood in a grand style.