On a recent sun-drenched morning, Jeff Goldstein, 32, was sitting in a wicker chair outside the East First Street branch of his burgeoning boutique chain Blue & Cream, sipping an iced coffee and shouting out at the strangers walking by.
“Hey, guys! This is a great men’s and women’s clothing store!” he yelled at two stylish young women with designer handbags slung over their shoulders.
“I know,” one of them said. She didn’t stop.
“Oh, you do know,” Mr. Goldstein responded testily.
“To someone who doesn’t know me, I look like just some cashier salesman, a nobody,” he said. “Sometimes I think I scare away people. I mean I don’t even look like Mr. Fashion, I’m just a regular guy.”
Named after a Wu Tang Clan song called “Glaciers of Ice” which Mr. Goldstein happily rapped for The Observer, about dyeing a pair of Clark Wallabee shoes, Blue & Cream carries designers of the moment like Alexander Wang, 3.1 Phillip Lim and Zac Posen alongside expensive streetwear worn by mostly rich, mostly white kids who grew up on hip-hop culture. Its two locations—one on the Bowery, the other in East Hampton—have won over fashion editors and celebrities ranging from Lindsay Lohan and Russell Simmons to Russian billionairess Anna Anisimova.
Mr. Goldstein talks about Blue & Cream as a “concept” and a “lifestyle brand.” It’s not just a place to buy clothes, but an art gallery (currently the downtown store displays works by ’80s graffiti artists Noah McDonough and Andy Dolan); a party venue; and a destination for his friends.
“It’s not like I go to Blue & Cream really quickly because I want to try on a dress,” said Dani Stahl, the style director at Nylon magazine, who has been friends with Mr. Goldstein since they both went to high school in New York. “I want to go, get an iced coffee, hang out on the couch, recap the evening and ultimately run into someone I know.”
“Hello! Welcome!” Mr. Goldstein was suddenly shouting, brightening at the sight of a prim young Asian woman wearing a polka-dotted summer dress about to enter his store, who responded with a cautious “who are you” side glance. “Please look around! Check out the sale stuff, O.K.?”
Mr. Goldstein observed that his customer was carrying a Louis Vuitton bag and wearing a Rolex. “She doesn’t even want my sale stuff. She’s embarrassed,” he said with a confident smirk. “It’s called retail profiling.”
Noticing such details are points of pride for Mr. Goldstein. What he lacks in formal fashion expertise he makes up for in firsthand knowledge of the private-school-educated, Upper West Side-bred, vacationing-in-the-Hamptons New York cool kids with whom he grew up.
On this particular day, the tall, green-eyed, gesticulating proprietor was wearing baggy jeans, an indigo T-shirt that read Blue & Cream and Nike sneakers striped in white and blue. “I don’t wear blue and white every day,” he insisted. Sometimes, when “lamping” in the Hamptons à la Jay-Z, he sports sweatsuits and a baseball hat cocked to the side. “The Lamptons is a slang word that me and my friends used since we were like 10 or 11 years old going to the Hamptons on weekends,” he explained. “We would always be like, ‘We’re going to the Lamptons,’ meaning lounging in the Hamptons.”
Growing up on the Upper West Side, Mr. Goldstein attended Hunter, the high-pressure, admission-by-exam school in a former armory on 94th Street, from kindergarten to senior year, by which point he had become known for organizing parties with his best friend, Mike Heller (who now owns a company that brokers “appearance” deals for celebrity clients like Ms. Lohan).
“I aggregated a bunch of popular girls and guys from private schools and created a committee similar to what you see with the charity committees these days,” he said. “By default, I was the chairman of the committee and it would be Shoshanna Lonstein from Nightingale, Claire Bernard from Riverdale, Mark Ronson deejaying. Anyone who graduated high school from ’93 to ’96 should remember it.”
The designer Charlotte Ronson, who has been friends with Mr. Goldstein since they rode the crosstown bus together as teenagers, remembered one such party, called Capitol, organized in the old Chippendale’s space on 61st and First Avenue.
“It was like the show Gossip Girl, but perhaps a little bit more tame,” recalled Ms. Stahl, who attended Chapin.
Mr. Goldstein graduated from Skidmore and became a real estate investment banker for five years. (His mother, Patricia Goldstein, is a high-ranking executive at Emigrant Bank.) Then one night he discovered Swamp, a former Andy Warhol hangout that had gone stale, and convinced its owners that he and Mr. Heller could freshen it up as “the Star Room.” And they did—flying in celebrity guests from Los Angeles and landing in Page Six with a satisfying thump.
This led to “producing” more sponsored events at clubs in the Hamptons and Manhattan; then the coup of a Grammy party at mogul Ron Burkle’s house in Los Angeles, honoring Mariah Carey’s Emancipation of Mimi album. “The mayor of Beverly Hills was there, Jamie Foxx, Chris Tucker, Paris Hilton, Kirsten Dunst, Jessica Simpson and Britney Spears—it was the crème de la crème event,” Mr. Goldstein said. “But the next day I felt unfulfilled, I felt empty. I just thought how can this ever be better than this?”
Walking through East Hampton in May of 2004, he discovered a vacant storefront in East Hampton with jewelry cases still in place from the previous tenant. He thought they’d be perfect for displaying high-end sneakers.
While Mr. Goldstein’s solicitous verbal marketing toward his customers is often charming, he can also seem abrasive, even rude, at times. (This reporter’s first interaction with him involved a hung-up phone and mentions of his lawyer.) But this may just be the necessary fallout from his perfectionism.
Giving a tour of his Bowery store, Mr. Goldstein turned into a real estate agent, energetically pointing out the raw concrete floors, exposed ceilings, even the clothing racks. Everything is in the details.
“I always feel like there something more to do, and I don’t mean that in an overachiever way; I say that as something that really does plague me,” he said. “I’m unsatisfied with those women who came in and left. I’m worried that they’re not going to perceive Blue & Cream for what it is.”
Mr. Goldstein can often be found Windexing the glass and picking up dust balls in his stores as his sales staff looks on. Sometimes he wakes up and jots down notes to himself about stuff like the placement and size of clothing racks.
“I can’t stand when people do, like, this,” he said, mimicking someone recklessly flipping through the expensive dresses hanging on the racks. “It’s very personal to me. We took time to pick all of these pieces … each one is special. That’s not what the shopping experience is about, it’s about this,” he said carefully examining each item on the rack for at least five seconds apiece.
His favorite customer combo: the mother-daughter team.
“I coined this whole mother-daughter thing, I love it!” he said excitedly. “It’s a mother and a daughter who are looking for something to spend time together on and it’s like, ‘Let’s go do a shop.’ It’s very nurturing because the mother wants the daughter to look good so that she can find a husband or look good at work.”
Mr. Goldstein believes in something called “visual merchandising,” which involves the specific placement of clothing alongside the artworks.
He noticed a dress that had fallen of the rack out of the corner of his eye, and rushed over to pick it up as a couple of salesgirls stood around helplessly. This reminded him of the time he and a couple of his staff members were putting the store in order following an art opening. A couple of merchandising execs from Bloomingdale’s made the mistake of coming in, but the store wasn’t ready for viewing.
“I was like, ‘Who are you?’ They were all wearing black!” he said. “They said, ‘We’re just coming to look around,’ and I said, ‘You’re not welcome in the store right now, you have to leave.’”
Mr. Goldstein would like to open a concept store in Aspen or Snowmass, Colo., with an extreme sport and snowboarding motif. “I don’t have a rollout plan,” he said. “I want each of the Blue & Creams to be like its own masterpiece that’s unique to its market, not a series of the same painting.”
But for now, he’s just been focusing on having a good attitude—a shift from when he was involved in clubs.
“Mike [Heller] is more of a Hollywood agent personality, which people always said I’d be good at, but I don’t think it would be good for me,” he said. “I’d end up a screaming, cursing, foaming-at-the-mouth Hollywood badass guy.
“When I was doing nightlife, I used to be known for it—I was like one notch away from being Ari Gold on Entourage—but not anymore. In order for this to work, I need to be positive. I don’t want to be stressed out and angry.”
Mr. Goldstein said that lately he’d been consulting Mr. Simmons for spiritual inspiration. “I’m very cosmic; I believe in numerology, I believe in karma, and in how the moon affects my Cancerian sign—but I’m not into the New Age stuff yet,” he said. “Maybe when I’m 50, I’ll be like Russell. You know what he says? ‘Fifty is the new 50, nigga!’ I might get there one day, but right now I’m just a little bit too … wound up.”
As he was talking, Ms. Ronson came by to drop off some dresses that Mr. Goldstein had picked out for her to wear at the birthday party for her and her twin sister, Samantha, at Bowery Hotel the previous night. Ms. Ronson, wearing a plaid blue dress and Ray-Ban sunglasses, handed him a garment bag with two Temperley frocks, one emerald and one black with embellishment around the neck. (She wore neither, opting instead for a dressed-down Alexander Wang tank top.)
As the two friends were recounting the events of the previous night, Mr. Goldstein was once again inspired to yell out at strangers passing by. Shaking her head, Ms. Ronson made a downward patting motion with her hand, signaling for him to tone it down.
“I can’t help it!” he said. And they both laughed.
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