The Million-Dollar Music Box: Pair Scoops Up Second Apartment at 400 E. 51st

Riki and Robert Larimer. (Patrick McMullan)

Riki and Robert Larimer. (Patrick McMullan)

In the days before cocktails became “artisanal,” when even the most well-mixed drink was, in the end, primarily a kind of existential antidote, Robert and Riki Larimer were behind the counter, figuratively-speaking, assisting barmen at their tasks of mixing, shaking and uncorking. The founder of Metrokane, Inc., a maker of decanters, aerators, cocktail shakers and other bar tools—including the famed Rabbit corkscrew—Ms. Larimer began helping to ease the bite of intoxicants in 1983, long before it was nearly so fashionable as it has become. (Mr. Larimer headed up the company’s marketing and product development.)

And since at least 2003, when the duo picked up a penthouse condo at 400 East 51st Street for $2.83 million, they’ve been in the high-end Manhattan real estate game, which, of course, has lately become arguably even trendier than hand-chipped ice and small-batch bourbon. But for Mr. and Ms. Larimer, the rise of the latter has helped them to stay abreast of the former. They’ve just purchased a second unit in the building, for $1.4 million, according to city records.

When we reached Corcoran listing agent Gilda Shani by phone, she explained, over what sounded like strong wind, that she was in Israel, and that she did not have time just then to talk real estate. Consummate professional that she is, however, Ms. Shani swiftly put us in touch with Ms. Larimer herself, who explained the (mildly perplexing) purchase. Her new 1,100 square-foot one bedroom, she said, would be renovated for use as an office and guest quarters—she and her husband have no intention of giving up their well-loved penthouse. Having recently sold their business, the Larimers are turning their attention to musical theater; a passionate musician, Mr. Larimer will write, while his wife acts as producer.

An office-to-be.

An office-to-be.

“Our second bedroom is just overloaded,” Ms. Larimer said. “One extra bedroom is not enough for a real office and a guest room combined.” Without success, the couple made a tour of other possibilities outside the building: “I looked at so many apartments. We want to be on the Upper East Side and we don’t want a duplex. We love this building’s old-world architectural details—the paneled doors and herringbone floors. We have outdoor space, which for my husband is non-negotiable. Everything I looked at, I said, ‘I like ours better!'”

And so it was that the couple turned their attention to the floors below, where, they heard, an owner that had been renting his place might be convinced to sell. Sure enough, Daniel Wiesner, a lawyer, proved game. “We’re very excited,” Ms. Larimer said. “I have a contractor. We’re doing all built-ins—desks and bookcases. Maybe it’s more than I need. But it feels like we really need it. And if we don’t we can always sell. It’s so easy to sell now.”

Ms. Larimer’s business sense, it seems, is not limited to booze, and first on the creative agenda is a jazz musical by Mr. Larimer called Maxie’s. Jason Alexander, Jennifer Holliday, Shirley Jones, and various star-caliber others are involved, and we are sure the new place will do nicely to put the finishing touches on the production.

We understand this space will get a Ralph Lauren motif.

We understand this space will get a Ralph Lauren motif.

“Why go elsewhere,” Ms. Larimer said of her purchase, “when you love your apartment?” But Broadway, like the real estate market, is an unforgiving forum, and the freshly-minted producer said that the play will likely open in a somewhat less competitive environment—like, say, Seattle. After all, no matter how much you love your apartment, it does a body good to get out of town now and again. Even if it’s only for a little while.